It doesn’t seem long ago when I would correct people who asked if I was going for a jog with a sarcastic reply, “No, I’m going for a run.” It took many years to convince them that I’m a runner, not a jogger. But now, after three knee surgeries and a good deal of arthritis, when they ask if I’m going for a run I confuse them further by answering, “No, I’m going for a jog.”
There’s a fine line between persistence and hardheadedness, and I teeter on the edge of both. After surgery on my left knee in 2003, the orthopedic surgeon suggested I run shorter distances; perhaps the half-marathon instead of the marathon. In response to his advice, I ran ten marathons before my next surgery six years later. In consultation after he trimmed the meniscus from my right knee, he said the R-word. I told him that knee replacement wouldn’t appear in my vocabulary for another twenty years, minimum. When I went back for a second procedure on the same knee six months later, a victim to over-anxious rehab, he just looked at me and shook his head.
Age teaches humbling lessons, but from age also comes wisdom. I’ve learned to listen to my body, recognize its limitations and adapt. Now I do more leg-strengthening exercises, cycling and periodic soft surface running. After nearly a two-year hiatus from the racing circuit, I recently completed a seven-mile trail run and scheduled another on my calendar, along with a Tour de Shore cycling event.
It doesn’t matter if walking a single lap around a track requires the same effort as a seasoned runner exerts to complete a marathon. The point is–be on the track. I’d meet folks who would struggle along the trail, but when I’d stop to talk with them I would see that unmistakable glimmer in their eye. Physical activity is holistic; it is its own reward. A walk, jog or run of any speed invigorates the mind, body and spirit. The lesson of age is to adjust and adapt—but never stop.