The other day I was coaching running and the youngest runner in our group, 25, came up to me and asked “ How do I get faster? How do I become a better runner?” This young man has many many things going for him. He is reasonably talented, not sure how talented, but there is something there. He has already put in some work to be the best runner he can be. Most of all he is only 25. I am the classic “ if I had only taken running seriously I would be………”. That could’ve would’ve should’ve guy. And here is this young man and he can, he should and hopefully will leave it all on the ground? Road? Trail? Well wherever he will race he has the opportunity to decide how far he wants to go along the path to the runner he can be.
Before we talked about anything I asked him to decide one thing, “ What do you want running to mean to you?” What I mean by this is; is running going to be a hobby, a serious hobby, a way to stay fit, a social vehicle, are you thinking of making part of a career, what about going full out and giving it everything you have got and really seeing how far you can go,?
For me at his age running was a kinda cool thing that few people did and with a mid sized kinda effort on and off I was pretty good at it. Running meant to me, though almost without much thought, that some local success was good enough. I look back and wonder, without very much regret, what if I was willing to ask that question and answer with something more lofty. What might have been? Who know but I wish I would have asked myself this. I very well might have been the same runner that I was anyway. I didn’t really think to ask that question and nobody was around to ask it for me. Today I ask that question much more often. I coach, I have this very satisfying trail endeavour and I commit to nearly every year with seriousness and hard work. Running means more and more each year as I age and look to stay in good fitness to be able to enjoy the other parts of my life. This is definitely not a question I even thought to ask at 25. There are many questions that I did not ask myself at 25 that I wish I would have asked.
Running at my age, 56, still feels pretty much the same as it did some 30 years ago. I know many would challenge me on that statement but it pretty much does. I lace on my shoes and head out the door and work as hard as I can almost every time out. I feel just as fast and still get a great deal of satisfaction out of a strong run. The changes are evident when the finish line clock has numbers that are too high and slowly getting higher still. I am still somewhat in denial. I shake my head a little and wonder why those numbers aren’t a bit more friendly. It hurts a little that my age is a factor when people say great race. I firmly believe that I can still get those numbers back to a acceptable level but the numbers don’t lie and where I hope to get to many would say it is unrealistic. So I ask myself “ What does running mean to me?”