Goals. Any runner knows that, to keep one’s interest, goals are a motivational requirement for ultimate success. Running goals come in all shapes and sizes, and are a varied as the runners who set them. They could be based on time. They could be based on physical health. They could be rooted in mental health and well being. They could be based on distance or consistency. But there has to be a reason, and end to the means, or running withers and dies.
December, to a runner, tends to be a time of reflection on these goals. It is a time to look back at the past year’s successes and failures, and it is a time to look forward to the coming year and set the dangling carrot far enough ahead of us to push us forward. Sometimes, the backwards glance goes back way further than a simple 12-month time-frame. And sometimes the future planning goes far beyond the next calendar year. But December seems to always be a time of reflection and a time of future thought.
This past year has been a year of downs and ups for me, in that order. The year started with a thought that, after 32 years, my running days may be over, and I was mentally preparing myself to live with that fact. The past two year, about the only exercise I practiced had been an exercise of frustration. Last December, I was recovering from a stress fracture (or so it was diagnosed) of my left big toe when a pain developed in the inside of my left knee. Pain from time to time is expected if you are a runner, but when it lingers, and rest seems to not contribute to the healing process, it’s time to take further action.
Early this year, while grounded with the knee, I was working at a running expo with my wife. Two booths down, a local orthopedic medical group was represented. I strolled over to their booth, and casually mentioned to the surgeon representing the practice that there what was going on with my knee, and described the symptoms. Without pause, he shrugged, shook his head, and said “That’s just age, it happens” and offered little, if any hope. I was not happy with his bedside manners or his lack of concern. It made me wonder why he was even at a road race representing his group.
Later that week, I made an appointment with a different Orthopedic Surgeon in the same group, since they have a very good reputation locally, and a subsequent MRI revealed a slight medial Meniscus tear of the left knee. If I was not a runner, I would have been happy to live with it. It didn’t really keep me from doing anything I wanted to do. Well, I could do everything I wanted except run, and running was what I wanted to do more than anything. So I opted for surgery to repair the damaged knee, which was performed in early May of this year. And with it came the hope that goals could once again become a reality.
The surgery itself was surprisingly easy. Within ten minutes of the time I woke from anesthesia, I was walking out the door without assistance. I thought recovery would be a piece of cake. But the reality was it required patience, which isn’t my strong suit. I didn’t do the best job of staying compliant to my prescribed physical therapy, which I’m sure hindered my recovery. I tried to run too much too soon, and then repeated that error on several occasions. An accidental half-marathon in Dublin in early August with long runs of 3 miles in training probably didn’t help much either.
But eventually, despite my sabotage-like efforts, the healing process took hold, and within the past month or so, I am starting to feel completely healed and am once again ready for some review and goal-setting. So here it is, mid-December, and I’m thinking like a runner is supposed to think again. In fact, yesterday, I pulled out almost 20 years of history in the form of old running logs, the hand-written kind, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to take every race I’ve ever run and documented, and put it in a spreadsheet, race by race, year by year. Just going through the first four years yesterday, 1982 through 1985, was very enlightening, and brought back an avalanche of memories and an excitement of what I still have to accomplish as a runner.
Next October, I turn 60, and with it come personal goals and of course, running goals. Every decade represents new opportunities for a runner, and for that reason, runners are probably the only people I know who actually look forward to getting older. From Masters (40-49) to grand masters (50-59) to senior grand Masters (60+) every decade represents new goals, new opportunities, new PRs as the tables are reset. I gulp at the thought that next birthday, my title will be accompanied by the word Senior, but at the same time, I look forward to enjoying all the old person’s discounts I’ll be able to take advantage of. My point is, I still feel young, and age as a number is not going to stop me from feeling that way.
So now that I’m feeling better, I have decided that for my birthday present to myself, I am going to run another marathon soon after I turn 60. I honestly don’t know exactly how many I have run, but by the time I finish my spreadsheet, I will have the answer. In my mind, I think it’s somewhere around 20. I do, however, know when my last marathon attempt was. It was on October 18, 2009, when my wife and I traveled to the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, a beautiful course directed by the very hands on Don Kern. He and I first developed a kinship through three passions we both share; running, writing, and beer. Don recently published a book titled “And the Adventure Continues” which documents his world record whirlwind tour while running marathons on all 7 continents in less than a month back in 2011.
Well, I didn’t complete that marathon, as my wife started experiencing stomach distress at around the 20-mile mark of that race, and I made a decision to stay with her while she received medical attention. She was fine, and I never regretted my decision to stop when she did for a moment, but it did leave me with a feeling of unfinished business.
So, Mr. Kern, I have decided that Grand Rapids will be my marathon of choice to celebrate my 60th birthday, and just like last time, I will contribute my running musings towards that goal race in your monthly newsletter. And by the way, I will even bring a seven-pack variety of my favorite Atlanta-based micro brews for your enjoyment when I come. One for each continent you ran a marathon on during your record-breaking accomplishment.
As you like to say…And the adventure continues.