Hail my running brothers and sisters! I'm staring at the clock on my computer and by my calculations, in 26 hours I will be 39 years old. 39. Years. Old. That's just 1 year away from 40! Am I upset by this? Damn right I am! Want to know why? Not because I will be middle-aged, but because turning 40 will kick me up into a new age bracket! But wait, 40-45...those guys are old, that should be cake, right? After all, I'm in the best shape of my life, right? Wrong, jacko! Those fleet footed, 1% body fat bastages are all in their running prime too, dammit!
I admitted that I crossed over to the dark side of running a long time ago. I study my training schedule, tweak my form and study my stats all to shave off those elusive seconds from my time. However I'm not content knowing that I'm getting faster, I must know also know how my competition has faired before me. Take for example, my upcoming 5k in December, the Rudolph Red Nose Run. Last year the winner of my age group finished it in 18:21 and the 2nd guy finished in 21:54. Now my newest PR for a 5k is 21:38, so that should put me in the hunt for 2nd this year, right? Wrong! Both those guys were 39 LAST year, so add a year and boom! Say hello to the 40 year old division Mr. Harwell and Mr. Dover. With a strong run, that leaves me quite possibly looking at a 1st place finish! Ha! Yes, I know I rock. May as well shine up that first place medal for me now.
But wait, that means those guys will be waiting for me in 2 years to kick me screaming back to end of the line where my punk ass belongs. Oh the ignominy! Oh the shame! To taste greatness so briefly, and then have it snatched away from my greedy, clutching fingers by a pair of middle aged hawks! This is injustice at its peak. Huh? What was that? Yes, I do realize that I haven't actually run that race yet, but what's your point? Of course, I understand that other people in my division may get faster like me also. But surely they didn't train like I have, right? Well, duh, I know that new runners who MIGHT be faster than me could always sign up also. But to all that I say that they lack any statistical weight as I refuse to acknowledge that they exist! This is about me after all, dammit!
The truth is if you run enough local races, you start to see a lot of familiar names on the leader board. And the corollary to that is, I would be lying if I said that I didn't notice who was at the top and how fast they did it. Yes, I get great satisfaction from doing well and even more from beating a previous personal record, but I also take pride in knowing that I can compete with the strongest in my division. When you're the fat kid running behind the pack at soccer practice, new found athleticism is something to be cherished. If anything, my success makes me feel younger and stronger, and I'm not quite ready to give that up at any age. So I will continue to train, to do the speed runs and the long runs, to study the previous year's results, and to seek out the races with small fields (ha!). So turning 39, not so bad. I might even do well in a couple races. At least until I turn 40. Ugh. I think that I better do some more crunches. Good luck and godspeed.