One of the weirdest things about my life right now is that I am a runner. As of yesterday, I have run a little over 53 miles this month, and if my long run goes as planned tomorrow, I will have logged 60 running miles this month. A year ago I might have logged 60 miles on my bike in a month, but not a single mile had been logged running at that point. My running career began on September 3, 2012, so it’s almost been a full year. In this past year I’ve run five 5Ks and one four-mile race. My first 5K (last Thanksgiving Day, running with several members of my family!) was a hair over 40 minutes. My best 5K was 37:14 on Memorial Day this year, in a pouring rain. My four-mile time was something over 50 minutes. These are lousy times, but at age 59, I’m not worried about that.
Do I really care about the times? Hardly at all. I’ve been amused by the fact that in most of the races I’ve participated in, I have been the last-place person in my age class. I guess by the time you’re my age (59) you have typically been a runner for a lot longer than I have. No worries–I’m still a lot faster than the guy sitting on the couch. And in spite of my novice status and my less-than-noteworthy performances on race days, I LOVE the race day environment, and the atmosphere among my fellow runners, who are all so encouraging and supportive. I even love wearing the race bibs and I have saved every one, with my time written on it.
I love that in a race there are people cheering for you whom you have never met, who don’t know your name unless it happens to be printed on the bib, who are simply there to encourage you to keep on running until you finish. (And frankly, that’s my first goal for every race.) After a race, I love the feeling that by finishing, I have accomplished something that most of the people I know have never even attempted.
My lovely wife and I celebrated 30 years of wedded bliss last month, but our real celebration will be the weekend of October 19, as we have entered the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Half Marathon together. It will be her third half, and my first. We’ve been training this summer, trying to get as much running done as our busy schedules (and weather conditions) will allow, and this month has been a big one. I have done two 6+ mile long runs; tomorrow we’re going to shoot for a 7-miler, which puts us on pace to have completed a long run of 10-12 miles a week or two before the day of the race. We’ve been shooting for around 10-15 miles per week; our weekly mileage will go up from here on out.
We have done quite a bit of our running in the evenings lately, to escape some of the heat (but none of the humidity). I have not sweat this much since I rode my bicycle to Wisconsin in the summer before my senior year of high school. It used to be that running more than 10 minutes was a difficult challenge for me. Now I routinely run 40-50 minutes, and my long runs so far have been more than 90 minutes. This implies that my half-marathon time will probably be upwards of three hours, but again, I don’t really care, as long as I finish.
Having a running partner (my lovely wife) has made a huge difference. I always run longer and better when I run with her (though I know she slows down a LOT for me), and we definitely enjoy being out there on the road together.
I have actually put over 300 miles on my very first pair of running shoes; after the half I will probably try to replace them. I suspect that for most runners, 300 miles in a year doesn’t seem like much, but to me it is HUGE, and more significant than I can say. (And my weight is now around 208–down from 296 in May of 2012.)
I am grateful for the opportunity to take on this new pastime at my age, and though I may never grace the winners’ stand, every mile, every breath, every drop of sweat, every sore joint and muscle has been worth it. For now, and for as long as I am able to do it, I am a runner.