I was never an athlete. Not in elementary school. Not in middle school, and certainly not in high school where I actually earned my only “D”—in gym class. And when I say “earned,” I mean earned. I mean, you really have to work hard to get a “D” in gym. It’s not like any idiot can do it. I fondly recall skipping out on gym to do fun stuff like drive with my other hip friends to McDonald’s in my little fluorescent orange austin america to flip french fries on the hood and watch the birds gobble them up.
Does it get any better than that?
Yet I read about many of you who, after lounging through your 20s, 30s and 40s decide to “get back into” sports. Some of you were serious high school or college athletes (you know who you are!). And I get jealous. And think to myself, self? What were you doing all that time?!
I get jealous because, well, I’m shallow. Plus, I think: “Oh well sure, it’s easy to get back INTO something after a 20-year-hiatus” or “I wish I had a base like that to build on.” (Yes, I seriously think like this.)
Well, I can partially—OK, largely—blame the culture and the decades in which I came of age for my lack of athleticism. I went to elementary school in the 60s, where sports for girls were nonexistent (unless you count dodgeball, an activity which has now been banned at many schools for being harmful to children’s self-esteem—see this blog, exhibit A); an inner city middle school during the height of forced busing (sports took a back seat to daily chaos); and an all-girls Catholic high school in the 70s. My high school—Sacred Heart Academy—had great basketball and volleyball teams, and I should have been a shoo-in for either due to my height (5’9″) but I was too cool for sports. I was so in I was out.
I worked three jobs to get through college (yes in the snow), but even if I hadn’t I don’t think sports would have been on my agenda, though I do remember seeing the girls’ crew team recruiting and thinking that would be fun. (I was obviously clueless.)
In my 20s and 30s I always tried to exercise but it was half-hearted and I would never have dreamed of calling myself an athlete.
Do I have a point?
Hang on, I’m getting there!
This little reminiscence wrote itself as I listened to the latest episode of my favorite podcast, Phedippidations, episode #105, “Running Over 50.” And as I listened (which if you are over or even near 50 you should definitely check it out, and whatever age you should subscribe because this is a seriously great podcast), I had a little epiphany and it went like this: that THESE are my glory days, right now, right here—that they’re still before me, not behind me.
All thanks to being a slacker in high school!
I have things to look forward to! Running things! Sports things! And no matter how crappy I’m running right now, I know that I’m building toward something, I’m working toward something. It might not come today (uh, definitely not today), or tomorrow (got that right), or even a year from now.
See? With age comes wisdom.
I suppose it’s possible I could quit this whole running thing, as I have threatened to many times, but I don’t think I will. I mean, I hate the actual running part as my loyal readers well know, but the other parts? Like the blogging part? And the racing part? And the people I’ve met part? And the “afterglow” part? These are what I think the (psychiatric) literature calls the “secondary rewards” of an activity. I like these things and I don’t want to give them up.
So, in celebration of my glory days, I have started afresh with another running program, the D.C Road Runners Ten Mile Program, led by this guy, culminating in this race in October.
And even though I tried to run six miles on Sunday and it felt like oh, six million, take it from me: there is glory in the trying.
You can read more of Jeanne’s blog at: http://runmomrun.blogspot.com/
Well said, Jeanne. We all have to start somewhere and YOU have come a long way.
At 50+ wisdom seems to be what it is all about and hip hurrah for you to keep trying and working at it….I worked at doing tennis and swimming a long the way but was never good enough for the team, but I like moving so much now and speed walk 6 miles three mornings a week, do weights class 2 mornings a week and Thai Chi/pilantes 1 morning a week and swimming a mile 3 mornings. I like how good I feel even though loosing weight is not happening for me, I feel like I will not need so much assistance as a senior if I keep going and doing my best. I like too how sharp my thinking and mind are after exercise and good food. The rewards are better than the disappointments. Hopefully I will someday be able to get some really good/comfortable clothing to work out in as now there are not many options and no long term care insurance…maybe I will not need it if I keep running on? That would be the best – Ill show ’em!
Keep on running. And thank you for the post.
Back in 2002, I got the crazy idea of running a marathon. I was fairly athletic as a kid, but never considered myself a runner, either. I thought that training and running for a cause would make it worth the effort, so I signed up for the Joints in Motion training team, which raises money for the Arthritis Foundation. After I signed up, I found out that I have a form of arthritis in my knees called Osgood-Schlatter disease–have had it since I was an 11-year-old. When I am people watching, I can tell who has it–the telltale “knobby-knees” are pretty obvious! The fact that I saw my condition on the long list of forms of arthritis sent to me by the Arthritis Foundation made it seem like I was meant to take part in this challenge. I must say that I met some amazing people in the process. One ended up becoming a close friend who walked her marathon–she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at a young age. The training and the experience taught me that I can accomplish big things if I set a goal and commit to it. All the training paid off and I completed my very first marathon up in Anchorage, AK on a gorgeous August day. I didn’t set any land speed records, but holy-moly I finished the thing–and ran the entire way! Since then, I did another marathon in San Diego, but now favor hiking off road trails to running. However, I will never forget these experiences. It raised my awareness of living a healthier lifestyle, so I can do the things I want to in life. At 38, I am beginning to see the toll life can take on the body. My mom just had rotator cuff surgery and will need double knee replacements in the near future. I want to make sure that I try and take the best care of this one body I have in life–keeping active is going to increase the chances I will get to enjoy it better and longer!
Way to go! You never know where you might find happiness. It’s fun and scary to take a risk and grow. For me exercise is a way of breaking loose from all the life sucking problems that weigh me down. Its my friend. It soothes me and strengthens me in the tough times and never makes me feel bad about myself. Congrads and keep the faith sista!