1975 – 1977 Running While On the SPAR

This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.

Since I have started writing on Aging Runnah exclusively, I have decided to clean-up and re-publish my forty plus years of running series here. There were a few rough spots, things left out and I thought it would be nice to share this old fart’s story of running over the years – yeah the story of how I became the runner I am today.

To make things simpler I have broken these posts into somewhat chronological order, based on where I have lived and run. Some places will have their own posts, others will be combined sometimes I will even break out a particularly important event in my running into its own post.

This post will be about the years:

1975 to 1977 on board the UCGC SPAR & ACACIA & MESQUITE and back to the SPAR, but all three were homeported in South Portland, Maine during my time aboard them. They were all part of the 180 FRAM and we got stuck with all the swaps or should I say cross decking. The SPAR is now an artificial reef and all I have left are the memories and a few odd photos of her.

Some memories are good and some pretty bad.

This is probably the longest time in my life that I didn’t run very often and wasn’t injured. Living and working aboard a ship, just was not conducive to running back in those days.

I was on a 180′ Coast Guard Buoy Tender and they were not big enough to have an exercise room set aside with a treadmill. Besides exercising was not something we had time for.

The motto from the Captains on down was pretty much “work hard/play harder”. Back in the day you were expected to play hard and if you didn’t…well you were considered an outsider, who wasn’t part of the crew. Some of the sea stories, ooh lala but that was a different place and time than today’s professional military :-).

However, one of the saddest memories is when I was in Little Creek, Virginia during October 1975 and went off the base. I saw a sign that said “Sailors and dogs stay off the grass”. It pissed me off that day and has stuck with me all these years. I know it was a different time and Vietnam was still fresh in many minds but…yeah it bothered me.

When I ran, it would sometimes be with one of the Ensigns (Enzymes) who had been a runner at the Academy (in a small world, many years later he was a full Commander and I was a Chief Warrant Officer stationed in Boston – we ran together again), if we pulled into port in time or sometimes when liberty was granted, but it was very inconsistent at best.

Believe it or not my running shoes for almost the entire time I was on the ship were a pair of Pony running shoes that I bought at the Cape May Exchange the day I graduated from Boot Camp. I had made a promise I was going to keep running, but never do it again in crappy sneakers.

While on the SPAR I got to run in Boston, Baltimore (Curtis Bay), Norfolk, Woods Hole, Governors Island, Rockland, GTMO (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) and few other cool places.

I might have gotten one or two runs in a week or not run for several weeks in a row. Most of my time on liberty was spent drinking at bars, playing softball or basketball and yes going home on weekends to see girlfriends in my POS (piece of shit) 1971 Camaro.

I also got pretty damn fat during this time (for the first time) and it is a battle that I have had to wage for the rest of my adult life.

After 1 year 10 months 13 days and 11 hours and a few minutes, I got off that ship and never went back to sea again as a permanent member of a ship’s company. I never did get over being sea-sick all the time, just sucked it up and did what I had to when we were underway.

The above photo is where I slept before the SPAR went through FRAM. Not a whole lot of room up there and with the engine room on the other side of the bulkhead – well you learned to sleep through just about anything – something I can still do.

Being on board ship was different, you became a member of an extended family and all the fun and issues that go along with 48-52 personalities. I did many things during this time that I wouldn’t do today and wouldn’t be permissable in today’s world, because I would be in jail or discharged from today’s Coast Guardvery quickly. Nothing really illegal, but the partying hard, would have gotten me in a lot of trouble. Back then it was what we did as a right of passage and it was a LOT more socially acceptable, than it is now. Being a Puddle Pirate or simply a Coastie isn’t…well let’s just say things are different.

The only thing I would have done differently is accepted that transfer to Hawaii and the 14th District Office job that was offered me at the end of that tour, instead of taking the AIRSTA Cape Cod tour. I have a feeling that a lot of things would have worked out differently for me.

Nope, running wasn’t really a priority for me while I was on the buoy tenders, but I did it enough that I never completely turned in my runner’s card.