What’s it like to run as an old lizard…
Forty five summers ago I ran my first race. I was 12 years old and the distance was 1,320 yards, over three laps. The authorities wouldn’t let lads in my age group run four laps, aka the mile. I guess they thought I might end up dead or at least break down in tears attempting that extra lap. It’s ironic, that today, at 56 years old, I am much more likely to die and cry on the last lap of an all out mile!
How things have changed. Fifty years ago women were not allowed to compete in a marathon race (see Kathy Switzer’s story on page 46). Today, newborns are routinely seen racing across the Mohave Desert in 100 mile endurance competitions, without a bottle. For those of you who are now interested in your child competing in this toddler death match, I should tell you, I was slightly exaggerating.
When I was young I would see these old men jogging down the road. They looked funny and pathetic with their white hairless legs, black socks and short shuffling strides. I am now their age. How did these once young and flexible runners turn into decrepit old lizards? Read on my friends...
If you’re lucky enough to be running in your late fifties you might notice a few changes going on with your body. You will be constantly stiff and tight. It doesn’t matter what you do, run, not run or stretch, don’t stretch. To understand how this feels, just imagine sitting in a very uncomfortable position for a long time and when you finally stand up you feel like you’re a 100 years old. Well, this is how I will feel after sitting in a comfortable chair for only five minutes!
Old running lizards also don’t recover like they used to. I have a great run and I’m done for days. For young runners new cell growth is like the big finale of a world class fireworks display. My new cell growth is similar to a cub scout trying to light a wet match in a rain storm. If you want to keep running you must remember two things. Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the rules keep changing. When I was in my early twenties I could run twice a day and over 100 miles a week. I look in the mirror today and see a balding, pudgy old man and conclude that three runs a week are prudent. I could probably do more but my philosophy is, it’s a long race I’m in and I want to be the proverbial 90 year-old turtle in black socks! Apparently, when you turn 90 all your white socks are confiscated. No reason for it and no use looking for one either.
Of course, if you want to excel at anything you must choose your parents. I am one of four brothers between the ages of 55 and 61. We have two things in common; the same parents and we are all still running. It’s a wonderful feeling when we all get together for a run. We are like four vintage Rolls Royce’s, ok maybe four Buicks, but we are still putting around.
Even though I hit the genetic jackpot for running, I am still amazed at my good fortune. The human body uses something like five billion moving parts in order to propel itself through time and space. If any one of these parts breaks, you can’t run.
Imagine the check list.
- Hamstrings - check.
- Knees - check.
- Hip flexors - check.
- Shins - check.
- Ankles - check.
- Quads - check.
- Foot - it hurts and now your out of action!
So how do you fight the, ‘I am getting old and I can’t run like I use to blues?’ You do it with one word, gratitude. Gratitude is the gift you give yourself. Ninety nine per cent of the runners I knew in 1970 are no longer running and it’s not by choice.
So, when I catch my reflection and see an old man, I smile and remember the word, gratitude. Memories are great but the present is so much more intense. So, when I am asked how was my run I answer, ‘The best one of my life.’ How many do I have left? I don’t know what the number is but I do know it is finite. One more day, one more year, maybe one more decade, whatever it is, I will be eternally grateful.
Mysterious Coach Carvey lives in the USA and has never actually been seen by anyone. Investigate him further at: www.carveyrunningtips.com