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David Freeze: Gotta Run

More on a life of running

I  wrote a couple of weeks ago about running and racing and the eventual slowdown of running times. It sure does take longer to cover the same distance and the same effort that maybe once won a race, set a personal best or just felt really easy doesn’t get the same results. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the October issue of Running Journal and found that Richard Ferguson, one of my long time running friends and head of the Psychology Department at Averitt University, had written about the same thing. Richard and I raced together often when we both ventured toward the Raleigh/ Durham area.

Here are a few of his thoughts with my comments added. As you age, maybe performance becomes a bit less important than it used to be. Just the joy of running might very well become the big thing. The things that meant so much years ago, like miles per week and pace per mile, get topped by just the fact that running makes you feel good and keeps you thinking and feeling young.

If you have been running long enough, then certain challenges had to be overcome. Injuries, bad weather, recovery and soreness from hard runs, disappointing performances and for some, occasional low motivation and even dropping out from running might have occurred.

Richard noted many of the things that I often speak of as physical benefits of running. Better bone structure, decreased cholesterol, decreased body fat percentage, maintenance of lean muscle tissue and on and on. Biggest for me is the recurring feeling of overall confidence and well-being.

I myself agree that running isn’t quite as easy as it was 20 or 30 years ago. When I remember some of the things that I did as a runner, there is often a little twinge of disbelief. It all seemed so effortless then, but now the more I think about, no it wasn’t.

High miles, hard track work, double runs per day and seldom a day missed were part of the plan because we felt we had to do these things to keep up. The other top runners were doing the same things. I once averaged 100 miles a week, but now 40 does just fine.

If you are over 40 years of age, then your running probably doesn’t come as easy as it did in your 20s or 30s. I watched a cross country meet this past Tuesday as many high school runners capped off their season on a perfect day with excellent performances. For many, they ran faster than ever before, but hopefully not as fast as they will some day in the future. Even faster performances can be ahead for 20 years or more. My best racing came from age 40-44 and current queen of local women’s racing, Kelly Lowman, is achieving the same.

But eventually, Father Time will catch up. But no question about it, a gradually slowing pace doesn’t matter all that much. As Richard points out in his article, running’s physical, psychological and social benefits are many and in my opinion, matter much more as we age. We hear often how intense exercise as the years go by seems to slow the cognitive decline that normally occurs with aging.

While many of the younger runners use their daily runs to get better for races, the older runners use their daily runs to enhance their inner joy of life. They are still runners, just a different runner. Still an athlete, still talented but just more experienced and more in the present with their running while less worried about short term goals.

My own plan is to think more of long term goals, whether it’s 100,000 miles or just to keep running. Maybe for you, it is finding a way to get a fitness program working.

I just saw a presentation that 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg does 20-24 regular pushups as part of her workouts. Richard used a phrase that closes out this column very well. Ask yourself, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” Let running help keep you feeling and thinking young!

We have two Halloween themed races next weekend, both with costume contests. Look for the St. Matthews Church and the Spooky Sprint 5Ks and consider a goblin double. The Clean Water 5K follows on Nov. 4. Find those events and plenty more at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

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