It started out like any other July morning. Well, any other July morning that’s 64 degrees – but that’s another story. Anyway, it was a great morning for a run, and I intended to get a good one in. I woke up at 5:30, got the coffee maker set for Kim, slipped on my shorts and running shoes, and quietly slipped out the garage door so as not to wake the kids. Ah, the cool morning air was magnificent and I immediately began stretching my legs and back. I checked my watch, made a mental note of my intended route (about 4.3 miles) and off I went.
I could immediately tell that I was going to be on a record pace…at least for me. I really hadn’t been running long – about 3 months – and I was already down to about an 8 ½ minute mile. As I passed the one mile point, I checked my watch. 8 minutes…I was jamming! As I turned right out of our development and headed up the hill on Bainbridge Rd., I immediately caught sight of three older men, also out for a run. I estimated by their looks (and their rather dated running attire), that they were probably in their mid-sixties. They were jogging along, casually chatting and laughing away. “How cool is that”, I thought. Never too old to exercise and stay in shape!
As they crossed the road ahead of me and onto my side of the sidewalk, I frowned. My immediate thought was, “Uh oh, they’re taking up the whole sidewalk. How am I going to pass these three without running through the wet grass?” Hmmm. Maybe I could time my approach to catch them at the next intersection and just pass them in the street. That was the plan…or so I thought.
You see, I never did catch those guys. I quickly realized that these three “senior” runners were running at a pace a bit faster than mine. Even with more effort, I was just able to keep up with them…barely. As we crested the top of the hill, my lungs were laboring and I was seriously considering dropping back to a walk. The guys in front of me? They were chatting and laughing away and running as if they were machines!
As luck would have it, they turned left where I was going straight, and were mercifully out of sight within another minute. Humbled, I slowed to a walk for the next few minutes to catch my breath. What started out as just an early morning run, ended with my [relatively] young 45 year-old butt getting whipped by three senior citizens who didn’t even know I was following them. Ouch!
Whatever “damage” had been done to my ego was temporary and quickly replaced by a combination of admiration, sense of irony (because I should know better), and curiosity over my own slippage into stereotypes. In retrospect, I owe those guys a big thank you for reminding me just how energetic and engaged (in running and anything else) anyone can be at any age. It also reminds me of a quote from George Bernard Shaw (or some say, Benjamin Franklin):
“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”.
Since that day, I’m proud to say that I completed the Executive Physical program at the Cleveland Clinic, significantly modified my diet and exercise regimens, and have lost 10 of the extra 15 pounds that Dr. Lang advised me I was carrying around (although he didn’t specify, I’m pretty sure I know where they were hiding). And my running? I’m not going to divulge what my current mile time is. But let’s just say I’m waiting for those three old guys to come my way again. Maybe I can at least keep up with them the next time!
A timely story with age discrmination currently on the rise and a reminder of the importance of approaching others with curiosity rather than assumptions.