Monday, January 3, 2011

The Age Advantage

There seems to be a youth revolution…or so I think. The truth of the matter is I’m getting older. I seem to be surrounded by 20 and 30-something year-olds.  I recently grew aware, by my coming of age, that 98% of the runners I run with are younger than me. Age is not something I think about when I run. I simply enjoy being surrounded by wonderful people with a passion for running. The company makes me feel young and alive.

Running is great because everyone runs his or her own race. The only person you are competing against is usually yourself. But since reaching my birthday milestone, I’ve let my age consume me and my competitive drive take over.

Not too long ago, I ran a 5K race as part of my training run. It was suppose to be a fun run. I ran with a steady, quick pace and felt good about it up until the end. I spotted a young man ahead of me nearing the finish line. He was probably in his late teens or early twenties. “I can’t let that young man beat me,” I thought to myself. I was in denial of my age. I picked up my pace to try to catch him. I was out to prove that my body was still young and capable of outrunning even the youngest competitor.

Apparently, the young man was on to me. He picked up his pace and soon, we were both racing each other to the end. We managed to shut out the rest of the world for that brief moment. I couldn’t help but think what was going through his mind. Perhaps he was thinking this, “I’m not letting this older woman beat me.”

I had enough drive and strength to pull ahead and win by a hair—a grey hair. “Yah, baby!” I yelled, claiming victory. Even if my competition was just with the young man at that moment, that victory was mine!

My competitive drive to beat out the youngster didn’t stop at the 5K race. Just recently, I ran a 10K trail run. The hilly course and rugged terrain reminded me of my aging body as I panted and climbed 1200 feet to the top.
Not too far behind me, I heard the crunching sound of graveled ground growing louder with each foot strike. Slowly but surely, a runner crept up from behind me. I let him pass, accepting the fact that my body had failed me. Then I realized that the runner who passed me was a 50-something year old man. Again, my competitive drive took over. “I’m not going to let this older man beat me,” I thought.

As much as it pained me, I tried to keep up with him because it would hurt more if I didn’t try. I never left him out of my sight. And that I succeeded because he was always in front of me—even to the finish line. I approached the man and congratulated him on a great race. But it didn’t make me feel any better to learn that he, Steve, was actually 67-years-old. Steve won first in his age group. I was impressed.

I accepted defeat that day, but gained something more. Steve provided me with a new outlook on aging. He was my inspiration. I kept thinking that I wanted to be like him—67-years-old and still running. He was remarkably fit with a youthful heart. He spoke to me the entire time we were running together. He offered me encouragement and advice as I tackled the difficult trail.  "A wise man," I thought.

I learned that aging is not a bad thing. Older people are often looked at with respect and admiration. As a maturing person, I can inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle through my wisdom, experiences, and by my example. Anyone can run—young and old. On the course, on a track, or on a trail, there is no competition. We are all running for ourselves. We are runners inspiring people.

So, when we go through life, don’t ponder the thought of being too young or too old to do anything. And don’t compare yourselves to others. Just live life to the best that you know how and don’t let age be an obstacle in anything you do.

Keep on running my friends. Embrace your age. As long as your body is capable…RUN!

You’ll be happy to know that according to the Stanford University School of Medicine, “regular running slows the effects of aging.” It causes our biological age to slow down. Thus, runners tend to appear younger than they really are. Steve proved that theory well.

Happy Birthday to me!  (DOB: 1/11)

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