This weekend, Kelli and I are visiting Mom and Dad in Asheville, NC. While we’re there, we’ll be running the Maggie Valley Moonlight Run. It’s a fitting combination. I can’t avoid but to think about dad and running in the same entwined thought. Our history dovetails with running, or at least it has for the last 32 years. As for the race, I can’t say I’m ready for it. Far from it. The furthest run I’ve done since my surgery is three miles. I’ve gone longer, but not without walking. But I’ll be at the starting line, and I’ll cross the finish line, and somewhere within, I’ll navigate the five up and down miles in between. And this race will represent a starting point in my running rejuvenation.
I have found that establishing running goals have become more challenging as I have gotten older. I’ll never run as fast as I once did, and I’ll probably never run as far either. Every year sees me slipping further and further back in the pack, and the reasons are two-fold. It is partly because my priorities have changed, but it is at least partially due to the fact that I’m just not as willing invest the hard work as I did when new goals were fresh, and PR’s were still in front of me.
But a couple of days ago, I became newly inspired by something that happened close to 30 years ago.
My father turned 60.
Why is that inspiring to me? Because a year from October, I’ll be turning 60, and when I do, I want to be just like him. Let me explain.
Dad and I first started racing together when he was in his mid 50s and I was in my mid 20s. We were both still in New York then, and Dad and I used to meet in Central Park to race once or twice a month. I used to pace him often, and pulled him to some very impressive age group times. I never appreciated quite how good his times were until years later, when I started to slow down, and realized I couldn’t run the times he ran in his 50s when I was the age he used to be. But back then, I was young and ignorant, and still thought I was the one who was going to beat this age thing and never slow down. In my mid 20s, I could run run 7-minute miles without much effort, so I thought dad’s 8-minute miles were rather pedestrian. I was sure I’d still be running 7-minute miles in my 50s.
Boy, was I wrong!
The other day, I was playing around with the web site Athlinks.com and came across some interesting data regarding my father. Fortunately, the New York Road Runners Club was ahead of its time when it came to computerization, and was spitting out electronic results long before most races. And some of these results make it to the Athlinks.com database. My jaw dropped when I saw some of dad’s race results from when he was 60. They were impressive, to say the least.
NYRRC Computer Run-5 mile- 40:27
Perrier 10K- 49:43
Staten Island Half Marathon- 1:50:52
In comparison, I have not run a 10K as fast as that since I was 54, and I have not run a half marathon faster than that since I was 49. I was 48 the last time I was close to dad’s 5 mile time at age 60. And my times in all distances have only gotten slower since then. I have not broken two hours for a half marathon in several years, and I’d be hard pressed to break an hour in a 10K at the moment.
But as I studied his times from when he was 60, and thought about it, I found myself getting excited at the thought of making my goals when I’m 60 match his achievements when he was there. Could I possibly still whip myself into shape to run a 50 minute 10K or a 1:50 half marathon when I turn 60? It would take a dedicated effort, and probably the help of a good coach. When I used a coach 10 years ago, I ended up running my marathon PR a day after my 49th birthday. It seems like a lifetime ago now since I was in the shape I was then. It was 30 pounds ago, and my resting heart rate
Can I do it? I have a year to find out, and it’s going to be a fun one.