Friday, October 14, 2011

And the Old Man Died

The old man poked his head out the front door to be sure that the coast was clear. He was about to do something drastic, and he preferred to have no witnesses. Perhaps, he was a little embarrassed about it. But he was frail and weak, with seemingly nothing to look forward to in his future, and he knew it. So the old man decided it was time to end his sorry old life. And he was going to do it by running.

He peered out to the neighbor's houses, first to his left, and then to his right. There was nobody else stirring in his well-maintained neighborhood, and so he knew that his time had come. So the sorry old man slowly closed the front door behind him, and sheepishly ran out to the street. And he attempted to put an end to a life whose dreams had left it long ago.

As he slowly jogged down the street, he thought his heart would explode. Was this how it was going to end? He felt way too old for this kind of exertion, and the old man could feel the blood rushing to his head as he pushed on. He wondered just how long it would be before his demise would come. His legs were screaming for a break, but he ignored the body's pleas to stop. He was an old man on a mission, and he pushed relentlessly on.

He ran for about a mile, a loop around the neighborhood, and finally, he saw his house coming up on his right. When he reached it, he stopped, gasping for air.  He could go no further, and so, right where he started the attempt, he stopped, stepped back inside his house, and collapsed motionless on his living room floor and just lay there. His whole body was pounding with every heartbeat, and he felt sick to his stomach. His chest hurt, and his legs throbbed, but that day, the old man didn't die. He lay on the floor, his mind racing, wondering if he was making a big mistake with his attempt to kill himself off.

For the next couple of days, eradicating himself was the last thing on the old man's mind. That one attempt seemed like it was enough to discourage him from ever trying again. He hurt all over, and he was close to resigning himself to settling on just being old and miserable forever. But by the third day, he was starting to revisit the thought of eliminating his sad old self again.

On the fourth day, he continued his attempt, and ran again. Just as the first time, he closed the door behind him, and he ran another mile. And a funny thing happened. Though it wasn't nearly enjoyable, he found it didn't hurt quite as much, and he actually felt a little better a little sooner afterwards. And the next day, the thought of trying again wasn't so for out of his mind.

The old man found that each time he ran, it became less and less painful, and now, instead of collapsing in the middle of the house after a run, he was actually starting to plan the next one. He purchased himself a running log, and began monitoring his progress. He bought himself a watch, and found that soon, his runs started getting quicker and quicker. He was finding that he was having dreams of the future, and had something to live for. He was starting to actually feel younger than he ever had before. But in reality, the old man was succeeding in his quest. The old man was dying.

The old man started entering races. At first, he could not run one all the way without stopping. There were often very few people, if any, behind him, but the old man didn't seem to mind. After all, he was an old man, so it was positive that he was doing this at all. He continued running, and he continued racing, and he continued to experience a slow death. His weekly mileage increased to 15 miles, then through the 20's, and even into the 30's some weeks, and his race times dropped. 40 minute 5K times dropped to 35 minutes, then 30 and even 25 minutes and lower.

The old man was now 6 months into his running, and in one action, was getting in better and better shape, and inching closer to his inevitable death planned a half year earlier. He was actually starting to feel very good. But his running indicated that he still had a serious death wish. He ran more than ever, and was still getting faster. His life was becoming full, and his dreams were starting to appear in vivid color.

As he approached the finish line of the race this day, he looked down at his watch. 22:10. Never in a million years did the man dream of running such a fast time. As he crossed the finish line, with one last big push, he went to stop his watch to immortalize this race. Then he looked at the watch, just to be sure it was true. The watch was blank. The battery had given out.  Watches can also die.

At the awards ceremony, the trophies went three deep in each age group. He waited and wondered as they announced the awards in the youngest age groups first. Finally, they announced the winners in his age group. First place, and then second place in his age group were announced. His name was not called. Then they announced the third place winner. It was him. The old man had won third place in his age group. The 25-29 year age group.

He went to pick up his award, and as he proudly carried it back to embrace his young bride and baby, he knew that he had finally accomplished his goal. He had finally killed off the old man, and replaced it with the fit, youthful 26 year old he had wanted to become when he first started running.  Looking back, he realized it was a slow, and sometimes painful death, but he knew the old man would not be missed. He liked who he had become much better.

He gazed at his blank watch one more time. How ironic, he mused, that at the exact same time, the watch stopped never to beep again, and the old man died.


  1. Great story and I have an "old man" that needs to go. An accident forced me to live with an "old man" but hopefully I will be rid of him in a few months.