Started late, but not finished yet!
No, that's not the description of any race I've run (not yet, anyway); it is a little closer to describing some of my morning runs, where I crawl out of bed at the last possible minute and squeak through a six-mile run with barely enough time to get ready for work.
This is actually my six-word running memoir, which is today's topic for Runner's Lounge "Take it and run Thursday." Every week Runner's Lounge throws out a topic for bloggers to ruminate on. This week it is a very concise assignment: write your running memoir in just six words. I've read a few entries and many people have been inspired to create not just one, but a series of six-word memoirs commemorating various aspects of their running lives. Perhaps it's a little bit like writing haiku*—once you get the hang of it, everything comes out poetically.
Since I have a tendency to be somewhat...verbose, shall we say?... I wasn't sure that I could limit myself to just six words. Turns out I can—but it will take several hundred more to explain myself.
Started late, but not finished yet.
My life as a runner did not really begin until I was just about 40 years old. I wrote about my story at length back in November 2007. I ran some, sporadically, either because I had to for school or because I chose to, when I was a teenager in school and college. But I stopped running after wisdom teeth surgery in college, and didn't run again for almost twenty years.
In the interim, I gained weight. Lots. When I started losing weight in 2004, I re-engaged myself in exercise—walking, yoga, weights, and the elliptical. I spent a lot of time on the treadmill, because it was a great alternative to walking outside in the wet, dark, evenings of winter. I kept cranking up the pace and the incline.
But it's really awkward to walk faster than 4.5 mph (if you're not tall, anyway), and eventually I started breaking into a jog for a minute or two at a time. I alternated jogging and walking until I was running more than I was walking. Then I started increasing the speed in 10-second increments. I worked up an interval run that would be a great training tool if I could ever get back onto the treadmill again—but now I'm hooked on outdoor running and find the treadmill boring.
Still, I was just running on the treadmill and I was too cowardly to try it outside. What if people saw me? Would I look stupid? Would I look as miserable as some of the people I saw running when I was out walking?
I don't know when I would have tried running outside, had I not gone to England in spring 2006. Since I wouldn't have access to any treadmills, I figured I'd make due with walking. There's a lot of walking to be done in England. But I brought my running shoes along.
On my first morning in Bath I got up early and went for a walk. I walked up a long, long hill. On my way back down, I thought "I could just start running." After all, I would have gravity to help me! I ran all the way from the top of the hill I'd gone up, down to the railway station in Bath. I suppose the entire distance was about two miles down. Then I walked back up to the B&B for breakfast.
I ran one more morning in Bath, and once in Chipping Campden, but then switched back to walking in the countryside until we got back to London. That's where I discovered Regent's Park. (In some dozen or more trips to England, I don't think I'd ever actually been in Regent's Park before this trip.) I could easily fall right now into a lengthy soliloquy about how much I love Regent's Park, and running in Regent's Park, and its beautiful gardens and roses. But I'm pretty sure that could be a complete topic for another day. I did, however, write a little bit in my travel blog about running and roses in Regent's Park—have a look here.
Suffice to say, I came back from England ready to run outside. Only a few days after my return I signed up for the 2006 Race for the Cure 5K, and since then I've run in 40 additional organized races or runs.
And that's the "started late" part.
As for "not finished yet," I think that speaks for itself. With at least several more races to go in 2008, and a few already on the horizon for 2009, I see no projected end to my running future. I don't know whether I'll keep up the quantity of races—though I don't know why I wouldn't—but running is a part of my life that I intend to keep. Even if that phase of my life didn't start until I was 40 years old.
By the way, I believe that the future of running is bright for all women in their forties and beyond. (After all, 40 is the new 30, right?) In many of the races where I've won age group ribbons, the top times for the 40+ division are much faster than the winners in the 20-29 year age group. My theory about that is that younger women are so busy with things like finishing school, starting new jobs, maybe getting married and having babies, that they are not interested in something like running. (Maybe they can still eat pizza and wear bikinis, and don't even "need" to run!) But by the time you get to your late thirties and forties, you need to do something! And you rediscover running. (And by this time, you're far enough out of school that you've abandoned the notion that only track stars can run races.)
Even amongst top runners and elites, there is a strong showing of "older" women. Deena Kastor, the top American marathoner, is 35. Paula Radcliffe, the British marathon superstar, will be 35 in December. And in the Boston Marathon this year, of the 53 women who finished under three hours, 16 were in their thirties and 8 more were in their forties. For rather less spectacular women runners, at 45 you can qualify to run Boston with a time of 4:00:59, which I believe is the most favorable combination of age and time eligibility you can get.
Now, I will say it again—I'm not planning on running a marathon, I have no dreams of qualifying for Boston, and I'm perfectly happy with 13.1 miles. But with those parameters in place, you can bet that I'm not finished yet!
*Or iambic pentameter—da da da da da da da da da da.