“A runner runs because he has to.” – George Sheehan
There was a time I wouldn’t enter a marathon unless I felt confident I would finish in less than four hours. After I ran Boston in 2005, my desire to reach a time goal or set a PR diminished, still four hours remained my mark for a marathon. Age, three knee surgeries and a bit of osteoarthritis, forced me to rethink time goals, and then stopped me from running the marathon altogether for four years, which led to my first running article, The Untrained Marathon in 2008.
I’m not as fast as I was decades ago, or even five years ago for that matter, nevertheless not many runners pass me on my routine six-mile loop around Lake Galina in Bucks County. But yesterday I was out for a late afternoon run and a runner with a light stride passed me. From what I saw in my peripheral vision, he looked to be in my age group, a bald spot on the back of his head confirmed my assessment.
My competitive genes kicked in, and I picked up my pace. I’ve been pounding the trails long enough to know the difference between the actors and the players, and this guy was a player. He was turning his feet over efficiently, his stride light and easy, the stride a runner envies. I had no misconceptions of catching him, and after about a half-mile of matching his pace he began to separate, but he did look over his shoulder more than a couple of times.
I realized that I’ve been challenging myself on some horrendous hills recently, and noticed I can maintain a pace faster than I had run in years. I’m beginning to wonder if my competitive genes are screaming to come out of retirement. I haven’t had the desire to train as I did when I qualified for Boston in 2004, or won my first two age group awards after I turned fifty, but I can’t deny that a flicker of competitiveness flashed when that runner peeked over his shoulder at me yesterday.