“We run when we’re scared, we run when we’re ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time.”
– Christopher McDougall, Born to Run
Yes, I believe we are born to run, and in case you haven’t read the best selling book by Christopher McDougall by that title, I highly recommend it. Why else would so many people turn out for races like the Boston or Marine Corps Marathons?
As you may know, spring in Washington, D.C. officially begins for me with the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. Last Sunday, like I’ve done nearly every year for the past two decades, I successfully finished another one. It was a beautiful day for a race—sunshine, cool temperatures, and, of course, lots of cherry blossoms. There were 15,000 runners of varied ages converged at the starting line near the Washington Monument. As I get older (now 54), it seems that no matter how hard I train, my current time can’t keep pace with my time from last year. I did, however, manage to finish in the top twenty percent in my age group.
McDougall writes that what’s unique about running is that although runners “peak” at age 26, they can continue to run well into their 60’s. No other sport, aside from maybe golf, offers such longevity. This is good news for me as I look forward to many more years of running. The other good news is that the qualifying time standards for races like the Boston Marathon go down as your age goes up. In other words, as long as I keep running, I still have a shot at qualifying for Boston.
People ask me why I’m still running. Other than the obvious health benefits, I love to compete; setting a goal for a race and devising a workout plan to meet that objective is an enjoyable process for me. Without having the goal of running a specific race with a fixed finish time in mind, I’m not sure that I could get motivated to run just for running’s sake.
Long distance running is about dealing with challenges and adversity. It’s about razor-sharp focus on an intended outcome, teaching you how to handle pain without quitting and giving you the satisfaction of completing something that you thought wasn’t possible. (At my age, it’s also about avoiding injury. That means more recovery time between runs and, as a result, more cross-training.)
I’ll keep running as long as I can. I’ve signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th. I haven’t run a marathon since 2001 when the Pentagon had a big hole in its side. That’s five months from now—plenty of time to prepare. My Marine Corps time goal is up on my bulletin board: 3:45:59, the qualifying time for Boston for my age group. I can’t wait…