I’ve been a runner almost my entire adult life. I started running midway through my junior year in college. Ironically (because I’d been skinny my entire life), my impetus for ever strapping on running shoes was to lose weight. I’d packed on a bunch of pounds after two and a half years of sedentary studying and working with no workouts to speak of. With the dreaded metabolic slowdown upon me, I needed something to stay in shape, so running it was.
I never intended for it to become an obsession, but I’m sure nobody starts something with that in mind. Nevertheless, I found the runner’s high addictive and have ever since. I started racing and having some moderate success, at least in my age group, and that made it more addictive. Over the years there have been some highs and lows, but generally, mostly highs. I’ve flopped in races and suffered through the occasional injury, but luckily, nothing has stopped me from running yet.
The times I’ve been injured have been the toughest. There’s nothing worse than telling a runner he can’t run. I’ve had some nagging injuries that have put me on ice both figuratively and literally over the years, but I’ve only had three injuries in over 25 years that have kept me down for very long. Each time, I rebounded and got back to where I was before the injury.
As I’ve gotten older, the rebounds take longer and are less successful. It seems the toll of injuries past leaves a mark on me and that’s slowed me down. I used to do training runs at about a 6:20 clip. Now, I’m doing them at a 6:45 clip on a good day, but more likely, I’m slipping into the 6:50 range. For years, I fought this decline, but somewhere along the way, I decided it’s better to go slower and keep running than it is to hurt myself and not run again. It’s a hard thing for an aging runner to accept, but eventually, we all have to come to terms with it.
That’s not to say it’s easy to accept. My mind still thinks I can run like I used to, but my body says otherwise. This past weekend, I had my first marathon of 2020, and to say I flopped would be an understatement. My time was terrible. I simply ran out of gas in the last 10K. Short of the very first road marathon I ran way back in 2001, this was the worst marathon time I’ve had (I’m not including adventure or trail marathons, which have unusual challenges and often take longer than road marathons).
The key is to keep moving forward and not stop no matter how disappointed I am in the results. Later this week, I’ll get back out there and start training for my next marathon in March. It’s more of a trail marathon than a road marathon, so the time may not be much better, but I hope that I’ll get through it with a better result in terms of how I handle the last 10K. Failure is painful, and in this case, it’s physically painful, but I will get back on that horse again and again until I can’t anymore.