Sunday is Run Day…

Los Naranjos Beisbol Stadium — picture courtesy of


My favorite time to run, over the last several years, has been Sunday morning.  Since the middle of 2006 the first day of the week has served as my kick start in preparation for the challenges that lie in the week ahead.

Prior to mid-2006 Sunday morning was the special time which I spent almost exclusively with my mother.  We shared many Sunday morning laughs, and some tears, for well over two decades.  It was time spent which I would not have traded for anything in the world.  Happily, I think she felt the same way!

When my mother passed away in May of 2006 my commitment to running had consisted primarilyof fits and starts.  I was pretty much a fair weather runner.  However, upon her passing my commitment to running intensified.  Maybe I was looking to fill a void which suddenly existed in my Sunday mornings?  Whatever the reason, when I look back, most of my more enjoyable, and exhilarating, runs have occurred on Sunday:

  • It was the day that I drove across the bridge from South Jersey to Fairmount Park in  Philadelphia and joined hundreds of other runners as well as bikers, skateboarders and walkers as we looped around the Schuylkill River.
  • It was the day that I would wake up after spending Saturday night at my sister’s and head to Valley Forge National Park for a challenging, but entirely picturesque, romp through the hills.
  • It was the day that I would roll out of bed in High Bridge N.J. and stumble just down the block to the Columbia Trail for a breathtaking (in more ways than one) run from Hunterdon County to MORRIS County and back.  Inside Joke Alert, Sorry:  Valerie always got a kick out of the glee in my voice when I talked about running all the way to MORRIS County!
  • Finally, it was the day on which I participated in most of my more memorable road races;  The Philadelphia Distance Run including one year with Valerie;  The Broad Street Run:  The Army Ten Miler in D.C. with my nephew;  The Camden Street Run with my brother and two sisters as well as many more.

My life has changed greatly here in Panama but there is one major constant.  Sunday remains the day reserved for my longest, most challenging, and more adventurous runs.

As I have stated previously, running is not a huge component of fitness regiments in this area of Panama.  Nonetheless, Valerie and I have often received words of encouragement from passersby as we trudge through the streets.  We have also been the subject of continuous horn honking.  Of course, I take that as their appreciation of my wife’s fitness level!  She says that I am crazy?

Several months ago we were stopped on the street by a 76 year old Panamanian man in great physical condition.  He said that he loved to watch us run through his neighborhood and that we were a great example to the locals.  His admiration seemed quite sincere and we thoroughly appreciated it.

Since that conversation we have noticed a few Panamanians running on sporadic occasions and this past week we saw three young men, running as a unit, who appeared to be teammates in training for soccer.  Occasionally nearby youngsters have joined Valerie and I for a few strides before quickly giving up.

Which brings us to this morning!  I was extremely pleased that Valerie was going to join me for the beginning of my run.  She has been battling some frustrating injuries but her work outs at the gym, including some treadmill runs at a steep incline, have been quite admirable.

As has been our practice for the last few years, when we run together, I run ahead of Valerie and frequently circle back towards her so we remain in the same vicinity.  This morning, as I circled around a curve heading back in Valerie’s direction I noticed two boys, around 10 years old, running hard in an attempt to catch her.  As I gained on them I took note of the sheer delight on their faces.

Their effusive grins widened even more as I caught up to them and we ran stride for stride.  Now they were determined to keep up with me.  Their exuberance increased even more when I yelled to Valerie  “estamos ganando en ti” (“we’re gaining on you” ).  As we reached Valerie, and began to pass her, the pride on their faces was even more evident when she shouted to them “eres muy rapido” (you’re very fast”).

They remained by my side for another 250 yards and ran close to a mile overall until they reached the baseball stadium and veered into it.  After all, this is Panama and even an adrenaline inducing run cannot compete with beisbol!

Valerie had completed her mileage for the day and headed towards home.  I had another 30 minutes to go so I ran off alone towards town.  As I progressed down the hill, I noticed our 76 year old admirer stepping out of his car as he yelled encouragement to me.  How appropriate that, during this memorable Sunday morning run, our paths would cross again.  All I could do was say gracias, smile, and reflect on the joy!


Of course, many people reading about running are thinking “What makes a sane person want to run??” Personally,  I can think of a few logical reasons off the top of my head — someone is chasing you, you’re afraid you will miss the Ben and Jerry’s 3 for 1 special ,you are an elite runner  racing for glory,  umm, that’s it . And those reasons don’t apply to me.  (BTW, 50 cent ice cream cones are always available in Boquete, at “Ana’s Sweet”) But still, I really want to run. After a few sporadic attempts in my 30s and early 40s, I feel like now, running is here to stay for me. I’m not fast, and it seems like a couple of times a year I have to take off several weeks  because of injury — always a result of me pushing myself without regard for what my actual abilities are — but I still consider myself a runner.

(There are of course many who would disagree my applying the label “runner” to myself. Runner’s World said something about those who can hit an 8 minute pace for a 3 mile run can consider themselves “real” runners, then  I read a long, somewhat obnoxious thread on an elite running site that argued people who can “only” hit an 8 minute pace for a 3 mile run have no business thinking they’re “real” runners. Ha. My definition of runner is much more inclusive — Are you working hard? Do you care about your results, whatever they are? Then you’re a runner in my book.)

” Couch to 5K” (C25K)is a program I first heard about in 2008, and it can turn anyone into a runner — as long as you define “runner” the way I do. 🙂 Very simply put –C25K is a plan that takes a non-exerciser safely from doing no cardio to running a 5K (3.1 miles) race in about 9 weeks. Truthfully, it probably takes most people a little longer, because the plan does stress that if a certain day or week is hard for you, you should do it again rather than move on. Unlike many fads, it’s simple, and do-able. My sister Lena, who has a fitness background but NO prior interest in running( that I know of), used it successfully. So did several people I used to work with, who had never done anything athletic before.

I use the plan when I’m getting back into running again, after an injury. (Like now.) Since I try to stay active even when I’m not running, I  usually start at week 4 or 5 rather than from the beginning, but I do follow it carefully from there, not skipping weeks from that point, because I believe that most injuries for recreational runners like me come from pushing too hard, too fast.  (“Fast”  is being applied here to my progress, not my actual speed, which meets no definition of “fast” I’ve ever heard). I also continue to lift weights and use the elliptical and spin bike on my non-running days — nothing burns calories like running, but it’s something!

So, for anyone interested, here’s where you can find the plan:

And, once you get to the 3 mile point, there are other plans to get you to your next goal –apparently there is now a “5K to 10K program” which I have not checked out. You can also google either Jeff  Galloway (I used his plan when training Disney Marathon) or Hal Higdon ( that’s I trained for the Philadelphia Distance Run). I think both present reasonable plans to get to the next level without hurting yourself. I’m still hoping to run another marathon…but it won’t be in 2012. 🙂