On Personal Challenges and How High to Set the Goal
I am not sure that my renaissance interest in running is related to my aging, but it might be. Today I am 60 and I realize just how privileged I really am. I am privileged in a lot of ways, but I am especially gifted in being physically able. When I was young, I was not particularly fast or strong. When I ran track in junior high, pretty much everyone was faster than I was. When I raced cross country skiing in my 30’s, I was far from exceptional. In my mid 40’s when I ran my first marathon, I was a finisher. But lately, and I think it is a kind of attrition, I have been finding myself moving up among my peers, I think that is partly because I am still doing it while others have given it up and partly because I am pushing myself more than I once did.
I am registered for the Ice Aged Trail 50. It is a 50 mile trail race in La Grange Wisconsin. I have never ran that far… ever. Back when my friend Steve Schuder was running 50 milers, I was both in awe of his abilities and convinced that I would never attempt such a feat! So here I am a couple weeks out with my training on track and on this day of my birth I find myself wondering why I would consider such a thing at 60? I am not the only one. A couple weeks back we were in the Runner’s Flat in Cedar Falls. One of the owners, Scott Gall is my coach. As I was looking at something, I could hear my wife Kathy pull him aside and quietly ask him if he thought I could really do it.
I think in the end, I keep increasing the physical challenges because I can. My father died when he was 45 that left a mark on me. I remember being about 42 and simply assuming I better get my life in order because I might only have a few more years to live. Well 45 came and went and while I don’t really think of it all that much, when a friend mentioned that 60 was the new 40 a few days back, I have to admit that is what came to mind… my mortality, the fact that eventually my health will decline and eventually I will not be able to continue to raise the bar of the physical challenges that I place in front of myself.
For me, physical challenges give me life and motivate me to stay physically active, that provides the life and the energy that sustain me. Because of the general oddness of how life has worked for this 60 year old, I am still setting personal records when most of my peers have already entered the stage of diminishing returns.
So on Mother’s Day weekend in Wisconsin, probably for most of the day, I’ll be running for the joy of it, and because I still can.