It feels like the first time…

Experienced runners can probably tell by this image that I am not genetically predisposed to running. Bow legged, pronated, and flat-footed, even custom orthotic inserts can only do so much. Still, I can manage for short runs if I get my legs back in shape.

For the first time in 15 years, I did not bike to work today. In a decade and a half, through hail, wind storms, lightning, and 15 inches of snow, I have managed to get to work on two wheels every day I worked at the office. Today I broke my streak and had to run the 4 miles from home to work.

Well, run might be stretching the truth a bit. Slow jogging might be a better way to describe what I was doing. My close friends and long time readers (not necessarily mutually exclusive groups) are familiar with my “walking is for suckers” mantra. I have been known to bike two blocks rather than walk. I have not run since high-school track, and the only reason I ran then, was to get to the pole vault pit so I could enjoy the feeling of springing up into the air. No, I am not a runner.

I felt like Rocky when I finally made it to the Bike Fed office.

So why did I ditch the spinning wheels for Adidas kicks? Last week I biked to work, and then had to ride a SixFifty Nekoosa that we had at our office down to leave with a photographer in the Riverwest for a photo shoot. I took the MCTS 21 bus home, but this left me with a bike at work. The last two days I had early meetings downtown before I went in to the office, so I had to ride a different bike to the meetings and then back to the office. Today I was able to go directly into the office, so I put my laptop and lunch in a backpack, slipped on the running shoes, kissed my wife goodbye (“Why do you have a backpack on? You’re doing what?”) and put one foot in front of the other as fast as I could.

Which wasn’t too fast. It took me 32 minutes to run 3.8 miles. Not only was I slow, but it felt like I had sandbags around my ankles most of the way. I’m in reasonably good shape from riding, but apparently running uses different muscles, muscles I have been neglecting.

This gave me a really good perspective on what it must be like for people to start biking again after they gave it up. Even for fit people, hopping on a bike for the first time in years and riding 4 miles probably feels similarly unpleasant to my first run in a long time. There are no calluses to ease the butt on the new saddle and legs fit for walking or running might not quite be up to snuff for spinning circles. I could imagine many people newly returned to cycling to say “This is supposed to be funner than driving? Forget it!” and never ride again.

Even with the unpleasant experience today, I think I will try to fit running into my short commute on a somewhat regular basis, maybe once or twice a week. I want to maintain the new-found relationship I have with these neglected leg muscles. I will also try to offer more long-term support to my friends interested in riding again. It is not good enough to give someone a push and wave as they pedal away. They might need a little encouragement to get past the awkward and uncomfortable first few trips. When I start running with the same smile I have riding my bike, I’ll know I’m there.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

10 thoughts on “It feels like the first time…

  1. boy do I know what you mean….I have no problem spinning from Bay View up to Pt Washington on a Saturday morning but heaven help me if I have to run a block. Walked home from Marquette area once this past winter to enjoy the clean crisp air and it felt like I did some rough country backpacking.
    Keep us posted how the morning jogs go. Pedestrians need to have a more visible presence.

  2. Great post, and great perspective. I’m a fair weather bike commuter and always feel like such a loser early in the warmer season and dread my rides for the first couple weeks (in particular the ride home). Thanks for this.

    • Thanks for commenting Angela. Most people are fair weather riders, so you are in the majority. Any riding people do is good for them and good for the rest of us. I’m definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum. The run did give me a different perspective on riding though.

  3. I’ve NEVER seen a smiling runner, so good luck with that, Dave! Ha ha.
    Give me a bike, any day!

    P.S. Love your posts!

  4. I enjoy riding my bike. However you do “see more if you do walk”. Running is a good activity however how can you avoid “the pot holes on the trails and streets”. (For me I either walk or ride the bike).

  5. Our name for our slow jogging: SLOGGIN’. It even permits some walking. We’re waiting for its Official Name 🙂

    (Late reply. Just returned from a 25 mile out, then back ride on W. VA’s North Bend Trail starting from its west end. Tunnels (fun), bridges (numerous) and very narrow rows (2) surrounded by grass for trail. Not recommended.)

    • Sloggin’, I like it. All you need to do is register the URL and put up a Tumblr or something and you can franchise it 😉

  6. Nice work, Dave. I regularly mix up running and biking to work. I find it easier to run to work on days when the bike trail isn’t plowed, or when I want to run earlier in the morning instead of at lunch. Plus it adds variety to the commute.

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