Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's Age Got To Do With It?

“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”
William James, The Will to Believe : and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy 

Last week I was hanging out with a neighbor friend while our kids were playing talking about, ummmm...yeah...running. She's run several marathons, but runs fairly on and off.  She's planning on running Phoenix RnR this January, so we were talking training as she tried to talk me into joining her in Phoenix. At some point we got on the subject of age. She's a couple age divisions younger than me (five year divisions;) and when she heard how old I am she coughed out her coffee all over the deck and said "Get out!".

I get this reaction fairly often, and I think it's my general attitude and immaturity that inspires it rather than my youthful appearance. But I'm never entirely sure how to respond - I mean, how old am I supposed to look/act? Am I so old that when someone looks at me they should think "Yep, She's old". You know the situation: You walk past a nice older couple walking together or an older runner bounding along a trail, and you think, "Oh, when I'm THAT OLD I hope I look and act like that". Well, should people running by me think that about me? Yikes, I say!

Well, I don't feel old. I don't feel the way I thought I'd feel when I was young thinking about what it would be like to be the age I am now. Sure I get all nervous about getting old, how the time passes faster and faster, and how I'm probably going to suddenly feel old one day. But this is nothing new for me - I've been feeling this way since I was 27 - my first "mid-life crisis". And yet that day, which should have come years ago, at this point is still no where in sight.

In fact I feel better today than I did when I was 27 years old. I'm stronger, smarter, happier, more focused, more balanced, and more motivated to kick my own butt in gear - after all - I can't possibly have much more time left, can I?

This is what I hear from other runners: First, there's those who say: Oh, goody, all I need to do is keep running and when I'm 50 I'll be able to qualify for Boston. Clearly the 20/30-somethings see the qualifying times for us 'older' folks as easily attainable and think it's gotta be a gimme. But wait, we're pretty schizo on this. On the other side, are some of the older runners (and mostly non-runners) I know who believe that they can't really run or push themselves the way they wish they could (or at all) and/or use their age as an excuse not to push themselves. Now, if they just don't want to, that's fine - but let's stop using age as an excuse. Age itself is not a disability or a disease. In many cultures age is respected and revered. In ours it is pitied and dreaded.

What I've found in my area of the country is that the 40 and 50 year-old women kick butt at races. I don't know why we don't notice this more. I think if we focused a lot more on what 'older' people continue to accomplish, and focus less on the "culture of youth" we would have a happier, healthier, more vibrant society as a whole. I ran two races last month, a 5K and a Half Marathon, and in both races I would have placed higher (I place 3rd in my age group, 40-49, for both races) if I had been in the 20-29, or 30-39 age groups. What's up with that? That issue may be another blog post, but the fact remains, that I can and will continue to push myself in running, and all other things that matter to me, until they carry me out feet first.

Life has the depth and breadth that you bring to it. A full life can last a full life time. Improving on my pre-masters PRs will remain my goal for a few more years. Maybe I'm a little fool and a dreamer who's in deep, deep denial. But as William James argued, in terms of our lived experience, we create our reality through our beliefs. I refuse to get old just because others tell me to.

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
William James


  1. This 57 year old who is nowhere near "geezerhood" loved your thoughts on this! I'm only in my second year of running and it's done amazing things for me -- or helped me do amazing things for me -- in body, mind, spirit. I feel and act younger now then I did at 47. And maybe we're dreamers "in deep, deep denial" but our dreams give us an endless energy of possibility.

    Bob Dylan: "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now".

  2. 26 was my first mid-life crisis! I find it humorous and sad that our cultures attitude about aging is so dark and dismal. I am 29 years old, and considered "old" in most circles. Seriously?! Why? I didn't start running till I was 26, people would ask me, "Why start now that your older?" REALLY? Cause once you've hit 25 you should just roll over and die?! I say, KUDOS to you for being fabulous, healthy, and strong whatever age you may be! I say, KUDOS to you for being a AMAZING example to women and girls all around you! I say, KUDOS to you, and keep on RUNNING!

  3. I had an epiphany at 65. On that day on a trail in the Rockies I realized there were more trails behind me than lay ahead. The next mile was that much sweeter.

  4. Love this! I get the "gee, you don't run like someone your age?" What is my age (a month away from turning 5) suppose to run like? I run faster than many half my age and many others pass me. Who cares, huh?

    I think by "our age" we are so settled and confident in who we are - we are not worried about that deadly age number.

    I am looking forward to turning 50. They say that wisdom comes with age. I am still waiting for the wisdom to kick in.

    Great blog! Thanks for making me smile.

  5. I turn 50 later this month and don't feel at all like I'm the one people should be looking at and saying "I hope I can run like that when I'm his age" . . . but I know they ARE! I get it on Facebook and Twitter all the time. It stings for a few hundredths of a second, then I think of what a great compliment it is.

    You absolutely nailed it. We "masters runners" are more balanced, focused, typically have more time without pushing a stroller or feeding someone else, and have a strong desire to keep kicking butt (is that to prove we're *not* aging?!)

    I've been running for 36 years, but over the past 5, I've set and reset PRs at every distance ... and I continue to think they can be improved.

    I say GOOD FOR US for continuing to push it! We are apparently role models, so let's give 'em something to REALLY strive for!


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