Turning 55: Finding hope and promise when running (No matter how fast or far)

Run

Ten days from now I will attempt my 3rd Grandma’s Marathon.

Along with my youngest brother, Will, we will clamber aboard a bus with about 50 other people and be driven to the start line.

While I will be running Grandma’s Marathon with my brother I won’t be running Grandma’s Marathon with my brother.

Will, who is ten years my junior, will attempt to beat his best Grandma’s time of 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Erich, who is ten years much older than Will, is simply attempting to finish.

We may be doing the same race, but we most certainly will not be running together.

I turn 55 the day of Grandma’s Marathon.

It seems like a nifty birthday gift to myself.  Assuming, of course, I complete the course.

Have I trained?

Well, that’s certainly none of your business.

But, if you must ask, I would say, “Kind of.”

I did do a 16-mile run.  I am contemplating an 18-mile run this coming weekend.

Which, if I do, means I will have logged a few 3-mile runs, a couple 5 and 6-mile runs, one 8 mile run and a 10 mile run to add to my 16-mile run and the not-yet-decided-upon-or-even-attempted 18-mile run.

My best intention is to train.  In my mind’s eye I see myself training.  I get ready for it.  I prepare for it.

And, then something comes up or I am tired.

The Little Debbie Zebra Cakes grab hold of me right before I am ready to suit up to run.

A bowl of ice cream, laden with butterscotch syrup, captivates me and before you know it I am in an ice cream coma.

Legitimate reasons, to be sure, that foil my plan to actively and consistently train.

Which I believe are the only reasons that foil my daydream vision of winning Grandma’s Marathon.

There are moments when I think I can.

Fleeting moments, yes, but, still, moments.

Interspersed between every mile I run I find myself suddenly feeling fleet of foot, fueled by bursts of optimism and some electronic dance music playing in my headphones.

I feel like I am running like the wind.  I smile.  Adrenaline courses through my body and I can imagine I must be running faster and with more endurance than I have ever run before.

Then I look at my pace watch and see that my 10:30 pace has actually slowed to 10:45 and I am brought back to reality.

I really don’t like to run all that much, to be honest.

I do it because I can.

It’s kind of like my mountain.

I run because I can.

I don’t run fast.  I will never win any race.  My times are not getting faster.

There will be a day when I can’t run like I want to or choose to.  I am hoping that day is not soon.

Running does have a way, however, of humbling me to the station in life I will soon reach in 10 days.

I am a middle-age man who could stand to lose 10 to 15 pounds – something I keep telling myself I can easily do if I just close my eyes when I walk past the Cosmic Brownies I bought at Menards for my 17-year old son.

I beat myself up for my weaknesses as I consume a second bowl of ice cream.

I lament I have to compromise on the loop closer to the end of the belt instead of the one furthest away if I hope to breathe at all during the day.

Despite all of these failings, I still feel hope when I put on my running shoes and plod on down the road.

The first mile, and sometimes the entirety of the miles, my feet, ankles, knees and hips hurt.

If I pay too much attention to it, I can hear myself breathing hard.  And, if I don’t pay attention, my left leg will get lazy and tired and my foot will start dragging on the ground.

My approach to how far I run is erratic.  I may decide to run 3 miles only to feel like maybe I should run 13 only to settle on running 4 and feeling like I should have gone 13, after all.

I have been known to set out on a run of four miles only to call home after running 14 miles to ask for a ride because I didn’t plan a return route.

As I approach my 55th birthday I have come to embrace my love/hate relationship with running.

I do so because it is my physical manifestation of hope and promise in life.

Each time I run I hope I can achieve something better than the last time I ran.

Each step I take is the promise that I might.

Running is like my life.

If I keep running I keep living.

In doing so, I find hope and promise.

So, I don’t run because I like to.

I run because I can.

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