Watching the results of Monday’s Boston Marathon I am in awe of any human being able to run 26 miles at a 4 minute 45 second per mile pace. For a normal human in good shape running a 6 or 7 minute mile is moving at a racing pace. It also reminded me that for most of the world that doesn’t run the idea of going out to run in the dark on a cold winter morning must seem like insanity. I know because I was once there.
People that I have known for a long time often ask me “Are you still running?” Somehow there is the expectation that you can only run for so long and then you have to retire from running. The idea that you can run into old age is just not a concept that most people expect. I guess they feel that one day I will tire of the running routine and rejoin the “real” world that enjoys sleeping in on weekend mornings. But I would mourn the loss of the peacefulness of being out in the elements alone with my thoughts and enjoying the sensation of movement. There is nothing like the feeling your body has after a cardiovascular workout in the morning. Sweat is good!
I have been running for over 25 years and have seen my running go from running 10K races in around 40 minutes to becoming a slow old jogger. I have even had fast walkers pass me! I have to say that experience is depressing. Last year my daughter who runs Ironman triathlons asked me what I was doing to celebrate my 60th birthday year. I hadn’t really thought about it other than thinking I have probably lived 2/3rds of my life (3/5ths if I am really optimistic on my longevity!). She said in a non-condescending way “Would you run a marathon with me before you get too old?” I had not run a marathon in 17 years since I ran the Columbia Marathon in 1993. And I didn’t even finish that one. She said that her husband (another skinny 20 something!) and her were going to do the Chicago Marathon on November 10, 2010. 10/10/10. That gave me 8 months to try and get my slow jogging body in shape to do 26 miles again. I thought I would be doing good to finish in 6 hours.
After doing slow runs of 4 hours on Saturdays for a couple of months last summer I thought at least I wouldn’t die trying to run in Chicago. What I didn’t know was that the temperatures in Chicago the week of the marathon would set records for the dates in October. As we ran the temperatures rose from the mid 60’s to the mid 80’s. We heard the sirens of ambulances picking up runners suffering from dehydration. The aide stations the last few miles had so many runners on Army cots with ice cubes being poured over them that many runners had to lie in the grass. OK, I know that the non-runners reading this are saying, “And you want me to believe runners are NOT crazy?”
With my daughter pulling me along the whole 26 miles I did finish in less than 6 hours and had father-daughter bonding memories that will last a lifetime (and the loss of the nail on my big toe).
I just don’t know if I am ready yet to hear her say “So Dad what are you going to do to celebrate your 70th birthday year?” I think I will take a pass on that one.