A few months ago I was running downtown with a few young runners who asked how long I’ve been running. I answered their question with a question of my own, “When were you born?” Most of them told me they were born after 1981, the year I ran my first marathon in Philadelphia, so I borrowed a line from The Old 97s, “I’ve been doin’ this longer than you’ve been alive.”
I remember sitting at a post-race breakfast of pancakes and beer at some VFW in the woods with my buddy Ed, and he said, “Did you ever notice that there aren’t as many people our age at these things as there used to be?” That was ten years ago.
I’ve always admired older runners who’d show up early in the morning at a trail race in the middle of nowhere with that unmistakable glimmer in their eye. There are no spectators, they make no fuss, they have no pretensions. I , never thinking I’d one day be one of them.I’d watch these old dudes and dudettes in awe as they’d lay it all out there on the trail and expect nothing in return but that inimitable feeling only endurance athletes appreciate–immersed in perspiration with that good soreness runners welcome.
Let me flip the page for a minute from running to my other passion–writing. I’m always reading about writers and poets. The other day I read about fiction writer Hortense Calisher born in New York City in 1911. She never tried to publish anything until she was almost 40 when she sent stories to The New Yorker, and they published five of them. Calisher published her first novel, False Entry in 1961 at the age of 50 and then went on to turned out book after book, 23 novels and short-story collections in all. She was 90 years old when she published her final novel, Sunday Jews (2002), and two years later, she published a memoir, Tattoo for a Slave (2004).
The world needs people like Hortense Calisher. The world needs senior runners pounding the trails with no inhibitions. I certainly need them.
I’ll sing the The Old 97s’ line when I cross the finish line of my first 50K in less than two weeks, “We’ve been doin’ this longer than you’ve been alive, Propelled by some mysterious drive.”