Recently, I turned 47 — September 27, 2010. Normally, I hate birthdays but this year I hated it even more. Though I’m not exactly sure why they’re so distasteful to me, I do have a guess. I’m not the type to seek after attention rather, I much prefer to be a wall flower in the back of a room and birthdays do two things: they attract attention and make you realize that your time on this earth is coming to an end. And 47? That just sounds, well, old.
A few days before the dreaded day, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s, What I Think about When I’m Running and, in hind sight, it was a pretty bad move. It’s basically a collection of memoirs that lightly touch on Murakami’s struggles in facing his mortality as he realizes and accepts that his body is growing older. Along with all of the aches and pains, the thing that seems to bother him the most is that, no matter how hard he trains, no matter how much punishment he dishes out to his body, he’s reached a point at which the times of his races will likely become slower and slower. And, as I read his words, I find myself wanting to throw the book across the room in frustration. I think about the aches and pains that I deal with on a daily basis, and the fact that those irritations are probably only going to increase in number. And, what’s worse, is that I haven’t even been running long enough to have respectable PR’s, and already I’m going to be slowing down? You have no idea how frustrating this is to me — well, maybe you do.
So what’s a guy to do, accept it? No way, I’m far to dumb to do that. Instead, I’ll keep running and mountain biking, keeping plenty of ice and Advil on hand in the mean time. I’ll push to run sub 6 minute miles like I did when I was 30 but this time, I’ll try to do it over 13.1 and 26.2 instead of keeping the distance to a 10k. Yes, I’m that stupid. And, because of all of this, I’ll no doubt pay the price with forced time outs from running and a thankfully sympathetic wife who’ll just stand there and shake her head.
What is it in us that doesn’t allow us to accept what is obvious to those around us? We grow older and reap the benefits that age brings, but we have a hard time accepting the physical limitations that accompany the blessings. Some of us walk around with the need to be immortal and have the mindset that things like cancer, death and freak accidents with a plate of nachos only happen to other people, never to us. As I’m running the risk of thinking way too much here, suffice to say that I’ll leave that question of mortality to those far smarter than me to answer but it does make me think — obviously not hard enough though. After all, I’ve got to plan my route for tomorrow.
Run far, run often, run smart.