If you follow me, you know I love running. I run a lot, and I run consistently. Every day.
In recent years, I’ve become a very good runner. I’m not elite, of course, but at forty-three years of age, I belong to a tiny fraction of runners whose passion for the sport has led to very respectable results. More importantly, I think I can improve significantly in the years to come.
I have various struggles in my life, but running is not one of them. It’s my refuge. It keeps my mental health intact. Maybe with running, I’m compensating for some of my failures and insecurities — I’m okay admitting it.
When I run, I don’t think about anything. I follow various running accounts on social media, and I can never understand the memes about the thoughts that go through a runner’s head. My mind goes blank when I run.
But there was one exception lately. It happened more than once. I’d be doing some of my harder workouts, like intervals. I’d be in some pain because these workouts are meant to be hard, but I’d also experience this all-encompassing awareness of how strong I am. This feeling is both physical and mental. I’m doing some really badass stuff! I’m as young as ever. In my forties, I’m doing something that’s out of reach to most people, no matter their age.
Occasionally during my easier runs, I’d pass a restaurant and see a very old person dining. Or I’d see someone young helping someone very old and fragile get in or out of the car. Or I’d pass an assisted living home. Is that what they are called? Or “senior homes?” I’ve never been to one. I imagine lots of very old people spend their final years in these developments. Are they really old? Do they all need “assistance” in most of their activities?
And I’d continue running, my heart beating fast but not too fast. Well, it depends on what type of running I do. I’ve trained my heart to be very efficient at pumping my blood. My lungs devour the oxygen. My calves do their usual work, step after step, mile after mile. I feel so young, light, and fast. Almost forever young. Almost invincible, notwithstanding the occasional injuries that high-volume running inevitably entails.
And I then think — how will I be when I’m really old? How will I remember these moments when I’m fragile and need assistance walking? Will I remember them at all? Will they still seem like identity-defining moments of my life, or will they be something incredibly remote, a thing from the distant past, irrelevant in the grand scheme of things?
I don’t overthink. As I mentioned, I don’t think about anything when I run. But this particular question crossed my mind several times — the curiosity about how I will be when I’m very old.
The other day my daughter joined me for a run. It was drizzling most of the time but we also saw this lovely sunset…
I write about running on Substack