While I don’t pretend to begin to comprehend all of the finer nuances in life, I have come to an age when life has elucidated certain aspects for me quite plainly. In terms of being an athlete I have come to realize that not only is running a gift but that speed is a privilege and not a right. The last few months, without rhyme or reason, the times I’ve posted in my training and racing have been all over the board. At times flashes of my own mediocre genre of brilliance and then just as readily — naught. With seeming insouciance I can feel great and post lousy times or I can feel anemic only to discover I’ve run a season’s best. Notice however I’m not saying a personal best but rather a season’s best. I’m nowhere near as fast as I used to be a mere 18 months ago.
Is the challenge now for me to try and regain my speed? Is it possible? And do I even want to bother trying? Is it alright just to be able to run the distances that I do without being worried about times? After all, even at my best I was nowhere near qualifying for Boston or New York. Or is the challenge now to continue to further my distances as I did with this year’s Niagara Ultra? Or is it to continue being fit enough to race marathons around the globe?
I can still run marathons. I’m convinced I can still get an ultra in once a year as well. And while I’m certain that I’m running greater distances than 9 out of 10 of the runners out there I am noticing that I’m being passed on my training runs more often than I used to be. It is a blow to the ego to be sure. But ultimately does it really matter? And if it doesn’t matter, is it a sign of acquiescence? Of giving in to age? Or is it a demonstration of maturity and wisdom to not only accept but to appreciate and value what is? That at an age when succumbing to midlife paunches, aching joints, and fatigue is the norm I can still run for 3 or 4 hours at a time?
Even if I’m not covering the same distance in that span as I once did not so long ago.