Reflections on running from one journey to the next.
Ten years ago this month, I wrote a column celebrating my 50th birthday called “Out and Back” in which I waxed romantically that I had reached the proverbial orange cone indicating the turnaround point in my life. The challenges of my first 50 years were behind me, I opined, and from that point on, I expected my life to follow a much easier, mostly downhill course.
Boy, was I wrong.
Since then, I’ve left my career in higher education, moved back home to Chicago, started a race company, gotten divorced, witnessed the birth of three grandchildren, celebrated the 80th birthdays of both my parents, gotten married, written four books and 120 columns, and appeared at more than 400 speaking events. Through all the joys, frustrations, and changes of the last 10 years, one thing has remained the same: I’ve run-hundreds of road races and 40 marathons.
So what is it like to be a runner at 60? Ten years ago I was most interested in new distances, faster times, and different races. Running for me was about experimenting with the latest shoes and socks and shorts. It was about the excitement that came from stepping up to that starting line. Running was the key that unlocked doors and opened up a world I never could have imagined existed.
Now, at 60, running is like an old friend. I’m comfortable when I’m running. I feel safe and secure. Although my pace has slackened some, the satisfaction I get from the sport has increased. I know that, no matter what else is going on in life, no matter where I am or whom I’m with, I can always get out and run.
But one thing has changed, for sure. I don’t believe anymore that life is an out-and-back course. I don’t believe that I’ve circled the cone and am headed to the finish. I don’t believe that what was hard will be easy in the second half.
I believe now that life is a point-to-point course and that we don’t have any idea what the distance is. We don’t know how far we’ll have to go or what we’ll find around the corner. We don’t know if the next few miles or years will be flat and fast or rolling. And, for sure, we don’t know where the finish line will be.
Aside from running, there has been one other constant in my life over the last 10 years. You. Not all of you were here in 1998, but many of you were. I know because I’ve met you. You, like me, have shown up here once a month. And I know that your lives, like mine, have changed considerably in the last decade.
You have become my closest friends. You are the ones with whom I have shared my innermost thoughts. You are the ones with whom I have confided my deepest fears and most glorious successes. You are the ones who inspire me. I can’t wait to see what joys and challenges my seventh decade on this planet will hold-and I can’t wait to share it all with you.
Waddle on, friends.