I had some workmen at my house last week. A venerable ash tree by the garage had been attacked by the dreaded ash borer and had to be removed before it died completely and fell onto the roof. But that’s another story.
When they came into my house at the end of the job to be paid, the workmen noticed my running medals, which started a conversation of a different kind. And having started running as a sport in 1980, I have quite a few. Most are for participation, although every once in a while I get an age-group award.
Their attention got me to thinking about what I’ve learned over the years from this sport. It’s actually been quite a bit.
— Don’t be afraid of getting older. The nice thing about running is there are age groups. The older you get, the less competition you have (assuming of course you’re still healthy enough to run). So the age-group awards are coming more and more frequently than they did even three years ago.
— There are some great experiences out there, and some wonderful people to befriend. Want to run down First Avenue in Manhattan (http://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/)? By Independence Hall (http://philadelphiamarathon.com/)? Around the Lincoln Memorial (http://www.marinemarathon.com/)? On an Olympic marathon course where this sport originated (http://www.athensmarathon.com/)? Or something quieter and more serene, like running through a redwood forest (http://www.theave.org/)? These all can be arranged. In fact, I’ve run them all. Running Avenue of the Giants Marathon was quite a surreal experience. I saw deer across the river, then about two-thirds of the way through I heard the most haunting cello music. After a quick check for angel wings (not yet), I realized the music was very much from this world — a young lady was sitting by the side of the road, playing a cello. And friendship? At the New York Marathon carbo loading dinner the night before, I found myself seated next to the cutest blondes from Norway I’ve ever seen. Someday, I just have to get to Norway. (By the way, there are shorter distances than the marathon for many of these events.)
— Running is a very honest sport. There are no teammates to mess up and no officials blowing calls. It’s all up to you, and you get out what you put in. Want to do a 4th of July Fun Run? Fine! Half my neighborhood is in the local holiday 5K. Want to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials? Go for it! And there’s everything in between.
— Finally and most important, don’t limit yourself; you’ll be amazed at what you can do. This sport is full of “How did I do that?” moments. I know it’s a cliche, but you just don’t know until you try.
And I’m sure I have more of those moments coming.