I crossed the finish line at the Sloppy Cuckoo trail half-marathon on Sunday, nearly half an hour slower than other half marathons I’d run not that long ago, and I was the happiest finisher among the entire field of runners. I know I was the happiest because no other runner somersaulted across the finish line—really! There is no rule against a fifty-seven-year-old somersaulting across a finish line—is there?
My jubilation wasn’t because it was the furthest I’d run in three years, nor was it because I had two knee arthroscopies and what my orthopedic surgeon said was, “More arthritis than I’d like to see,” since my last half. Rather than use those inconveniences as excuses, I looked at them as a well-needed awakening. These events reminded me that I’d taken my physical fitness for granted for over fifty years, an easy trap to fall into when you go through life able to wake up any day of the week and take a five-mile run. I needed the wake-up call to realize how fortunate I am simply to run at my age, let alone thirteen miles.
I had accepted the notion that I would no longer be able to run long distances, something my doctor advised almost ten years ago. I began cycling more often, joined a gym and kayaked to get the cardio workout I longed, but as all runners know, there is no substitute for a long run. Early this year I noticed a resurgence in my running, so I alternated the other cardio routines with running on soft surfaces, off-road trails and local parks; just a mile or two at first. When I realized my knees didn’t ache like they had before, I stretched it to five miles, and then entered a seven-mile trail run, followed by a 15K.
If anyone would have told me one year ago I’d be running a half marathon again, I would have checked their glove compartment for cannabis. Don’t get me wrong, my knees don’t feel like they did twenty years ago, or even ten. They feel like fifty-seven year-old knees should feel, I suppose. And I won’t be running for a few more days, at least. I’ve learned to be kinder to my knees. Maybe I’ll just cycle this week, avoid the pounding. But I am looking for a 25K or 30K. And then, who knows?
My wife and children have been telling me for many years to act my age. I tried and thought I was beginning to turn the corner. Hopefully they don’t read this and find out about the somersault.