I never want to say "never again". It's so final. But I've done a lot of thinking about my running lately, and I'm thinking it's time to hang up the spikes, so to speak. Here's why. For most of my life, my running has been because of my love of competition--it has been a means to an end. The end was always getting myself to the point where I could be competitive as a runner. I enjoyed the training because I enjoyed the thought of finally winning my age group.
I think I had an epiphany about this a few weeks ago while on a hike up Mount Raymond. On the way back, as I staggered down the trail, pretty tired, I saw this gazelle--a human gazelle--running up the trail. Of course the guy was maybe twenty years younger than me, but I really couldn't have done that twenty years ago either. I'm just not a distance runner.
I've always been more like a decathlete than a long distance runner, although in my late teens to early twenties, when I weighed in the mid-150s, I once did a 5k in under 20 minutes. Still, that was the pinnacle for me. At nearly 53 now, I could no more approach that than I could recite Shakespeare's Othello from cover to cover. Nor do I really think I'd like to do the training to get me there.
You see, now I just love working out to be fit. I can take a day off if I want to without feeling like it's hurting my race prospects. I can work out just for the joy of getting in shape. I can look more like a decathlete without worrying that I'm 193 pounds and there's no way I can beat the gazelles at the 5k--even in my age group--at that weight. In short, I can be me.
So, this year, I'll run my race on the 4th of July. But next year, maybe I'll do something different. It'll be a new feeling, but one I can definitely embrace. Then maybe, if I ever work out to the point where I get my body fat down below 10 percent, maybe then, I'll rethink things and wonder what I can do. Like I said, I never want to say "never". I hope this doesn't make anyone sad. I'm still the same me who wants to keep in shape to do the things I love in the outdoors. It's just that I no longer believe I can make the U.S. Olympic team. I guess my dreams have changed.