I’m a runner. I try to run almost every day. I didn’t start running until after my marriage hit the skids. I liked the feeling it gave me again. It was forward motion that I could control even when life as I knew it was grinding to a halt behind me. It’s cheap therapy.
Running is free.
I run with my friend Patricia. We didn’t just lace up our sneakers and take off. We started slowly…walking a telephone pole, running a pole…and then we started connecting them together. It wasn’t long before we were running a mile…then two…and finally an entire 5k. Of course, to a marathon runner, a little over three miles isn’t that much. If you’re reading this and don’t run, go out tomorrow and give a 5k a try. It ain’t easy. We’ve upped the ante and we combine weight lifting and interval training with our run. We’re pretty fit for two oldish broads. Ibuprofen is our friend.
We’d like to think we’re athletic, but most of the time we look like the frayed ends of a bad rope. None of that matters come racetime when we are running up the hill on Highway 53 past some of the high school kids who are WALKING. You know who you are.
I am a baby boomer…born between 1946 and 1964…the special generation that is going to eat up all of what’s left of social security, which is only fair, because we’ve built most of it.
Pat just misses being a baby boomer… but she’s one of us by her sheer tenacity. If I asked Pat to jump off of a bridge with me she would already have one leg over the rail. How lucky am I?
We are also middle-aged. I know some of you cringe and refuse to think of yourself that way…but in truth, if you were born before 1972, then so are you. Get over it. Once you do, you’ll find it’s pretty cool…if you’re doing it right.
Here’s my theory on middle-age…a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
If you look at life like a human pregnancy…then the first thirty years, the age between birth and 39, is the first trimester. You are just a little flitter, all your cells coming together to become the person you will grow into. The first trimester is filled with excitement and drama and uncertainty. There are many ups and downs. You are nauseous a lot of the time and tend to want to sleep way too much or you can’t sleep at all. You eat everything, or you eat nothing…whether you should or shouldn’t. You push yourself too much, or not enough…and you are anxious and impatient to see where this is all going. Toward the end of the first trimester you experience some life lessons that wake you up and make you realize that you could have paced yourself better…you suspect that the best years might be falling behind you. In your thirties you begin to see that time is flying much faster than it did in your twenties. You develop regrets…about things you did or didn’t get to do and you worry…about everything.
And then something wonderful happens. You enter the second trimester…from 40-69…and suddenly all the things that made you feel insecure and unsure of yourself just don’t matter anymore.
Your car has finally climbed to the top of the first hill on the rollercoaster and as you drop off the crest, your eyes are wide open and your hands are up in the air…if you’re riding it right.
It is the trimester where you feel the best…you have energy to spare and you glow. You are almost fully formed now and you begin to assert yourself…make your presence known. It is the BEST time of your life if you want it to be. You are aware of life’s limitations but you find yourself brave enough to push those limits and try things that you’ve always wanted to…be someone you’ve always wanted to be. You welcome challenge and change.
In the second trimester, you stop wasting time fixing things to fit into your life. You no longer want to accept your cup as half-full or half empty…if the glass isn’t full you’d rather drink from the faucet. You understand that this is the time to take chances.
It is also the trimester when life starts to throw some curves into the ride and you come to face how fragile life can be and how short it is for some and loss becomes part of what drives you forward and makes you sip the wine a little slower.
Toward the end of the second trimester, just when you think it can’t get any better…it can. Think about 69 year old Harrison Ford…and one of the sexiest women alive…Helen Mirren…an incredible 67.
Middle age can be the time of your life if you run toward it and around it and in it…not away from it. Instead of yearning to make yourself over…consider that you can have a do-over…a chance at a totally different you. It’s not about age…it’s about attitude. It’s like a second childhood and it’s totally up to you. Your age is just a number. And while it doesn’t define or limit your life, remember that it is a privilege and should be honored as such.
The third trimester…ages 70 and up are referred to as the golden years…you are fully formed and will start to slow down. If you’ve taken advantage of your middle years, the ones where you are the strongest and can be the happiest and healthiest, then the golden years should be just that…golden.
Sit back and buff the trophy you’ve become to a shine. If you’ve lived your life, your trophy will have some tarnish and scratches and dents. The third trimester is just as much about the marks that others have left on you as the marks you’ve left on them.
I met a man who had a hard life. He grew up in a family that was poor, not only by things they couldn’t afford…but also by what they didn’t give to each other.
One day their father came home with a bicycle. It was such a rare thing for him to waste money especially on the kids. There were five of them and only one bike. They all had to take turns. He was the youngest one and got to ride the bike last. It was almost dark and they told him to ride down to the end of the road and come back.
He got on the bike and when he got to the end of the road he kept going…never looked over his shoulder to see his brothers and sisters running after him as he turned the corner and rode out of sight.
He ended up miles away. He got tired and finally knocked on a farmer’s door and they called his father who came and got him. His father threw the bike in the back of the truck and drove him home. His father didn’t have to punish him. He knew his brothers and sisters would never let him have a chance to ride the bike again.
Over forty years have passed…and he still wonders what would have happened if he hadn’t stopped…and had just kept going on that bike.
I like the feeling when I run. It doesn’t matter where I’m going. I won’t ever stop.
I’m a runner. Running is free.
Day three hundred and forty eight…time for a shower and some Ibuprofen…