Alan Riquelmy: Chasing memories

A friend once told me an anecdote about his father hitting him.

I sometimes think about it when running — a child, approaching his father with news of an accomplishment. The kid did something great, and the father then strikes him on the cheek, open handed.

Why, the child asked. Because, the dad replied, you did something really good, and I want you to remember this day.

Was my friend telling the truth about this incident? Knowing him, I’d give it a 50% chance. Associating memory with pain, though, sure sounds true. Anyone who runs knows that.

It’s not like I’m competing. Those days, if they ever existed, are long past. Instead, it’s to maintain a modicum of health, hopefully keeping the blood pressure down and the thin wastrel with the sickle away. Memento mori and all that, but no reason I’ve got to run toward the guy. I’m running away from him, just at a modest pace.

And that pain from running, while branding memories in my head, also lets me know I’m still alive. So there’s that.

Run the same trails and mile markers will soon emblazon themselves, like phantoms, on the concrete. The blue sign is 2 miles from the start, and now it’s another 0.8 miles until that big hill. You’ll only have to run up a portion of it, hit 3 miles, then turn and run back.

Should you call running a sport? I guess so. People do it in the Olympics and get medals. Most people I know who do it love the activity, though while doing it they constantly talk about it being over. Just a couple more miles and we’ll be done, they say.

Who has a hobby that, while enjoying it, always talks about when it’ll end? Runners, that’s who.

I suppose you could find some DHM in it — the Deep Hidden Meaning. Running as an analogy for life and all that. It’s not about the end, but the process of getting there. There will be hills and valleys, and you’ll meet people along the way, yada yada.

Maybe it’s more about improving one’s self as opposed to some hackneyed yarn about life’s journey. Most people I know who run are building up to something, whether it’s a specific race or a time or maybe even just getting up a certain hill without stopping.

We all gather alternatively on freezing mornings or ones you know will be blazing hot in 10 minutes. Check our laces, set our watches and hit the trail.

The hill you had problems with last week isn’t as bad this time. You make it to the top and pick up speed. Strangers pass in the opposite direction, smile and say you’re doing a great job. It’s like Mayberry in $180 shoes. Who praises strangers for moving their bodies at a heightened pace?

Runners, that’s who.

People pass you, too, wishing you well as they fly by. You’ll catch them one day, as long as you keep at it.

There are a few stragglers, as well. You spot one when turning your head — a thin guy in a black cloak with pale skin. He looks blankly at you and starts to run.

You do, too. The air in your lungs begins to burn as your legs fire like pistons. Your body turns into an engine. The veins in your head are about to burst.

The memory hits hard.

Alan Riquelmy is the editor-in-chief of the Sierra Sun and editor of The Union. He can be reached at or at 530-477-4249

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