In forty-some years of running, I still haven’t figured out the formula for a good run. I’ve had lousy runs after a restful night and a ten-hour sleep, and kick-ass runs after I’d been out until the wee hours misbehaving with my buddies. There are days I have to force myself out the door after working my butt off, only to have a strong, vibrant run; other times I can’t wait to hit the trail only to slug along like I had cinder blocks in my pockets. I’ve concluded there is no full-proof formula for a good run.
My best running years were at a time of my life when my buddies thought a round of golf riding in a cart with a case of beer in the back was a workout. My fiftieth year I qualified for Boston and won my first two running awards, ever. As I proceeded into my fifties I increased my cycling mileage and did my first triathlon. But when I hit fifty-nine I sustained the worst running injury of my life in a knuckle-headed move running on the ice that led to a four-month rehab for an inflamed hip.
These days I run for the sheer joy of running. Lofty goals like qualifying for Boston have been replaced by thankfulness to finish an 18-mile trail run through the mountains–I mean, how freakin’ fortunate am I?! So this year I am taking on a new challenge–finding my stride at sixty.
Recently, I had a revelation, and now am reconsidering that formula I said didn’t exist. Last October my buddy Ed and I cycled 300+ miles from Pittsburgh to Washington DC on the Greater Alleghany Passage and the C&O Canal towing nearly 100 pounds in camping gear, food, water, etc., and then in November I shaved 40 minutes off my previous-year marathon. This past weekend Ed and I took a two-day hike on the Appalachian Trail lugging 35-pound backpacks over arguably the trail’s rockiest stretch, and the day after we returned I ran the strongest 10K I’d run all year.
So I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, the most effective way for me to find my stride at sixty is to exert myself in leisure activities like hiking and tour cycling rather than a traditional marathon training program. I’ll test the theory at the Steamtown Marathon on October 12th in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After the hip injury and rehab, I didn’t expect to run a marathon this year, but now I’m excited. My goal is to finish, but who knows what will unfold during those 26.2 miles?
And with that, I’ll end with another Confucius saying, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”