When I look in the mirror I do not initially see a 41-year-old man looking back at me. The
man, er boy, staring back at me is still young.
But as I lean closer to the mirror, the wrinkles become more apparent. The amount of salt on my unshaven face is ever growing. The gray in my hair is spreading, slowly, but steadily spreading nonetheless.
That guy in the mirror is no longer 22 or even 32 (which is the age I always foresaw myself staying at forever). No, that guy is 41.
41 is not old necessarily, but it definitely is not young anymore – and that’s hard for someone who has always had somewhat of a Peter Pan complex. All my life I felt that if you stayed young in your mind and heart, your body would reflect that. When I re-discovered running three years ago I became convinced that I had found the Fountain of Youth.
6 months into my discovery I was 25 pounds lighter, had more energy than I had when I was 20, and felt as mentally sharp as I ever had been. I was convinced that I had turned the clock backward.
The problem of course is that you can only hold back Father Time for so long. Over the last three months it has suddenly taken me longer to recover, I’ve required more energy to motivate and my cracker-jack timing has been, well, a little off. Despite all of that I continued to push myself, hard. Eventually I had to stop and listen.
During a time that I should have been at the peak of my training (70 miles per week) for my upcoming marathon at the end of the month, I was instead asleep and running haphazardly (20 miles per week). Obviously I needed a break. 6 marathons (along with training for them) in 18 months had taken their toll.
I felt old. Suddenly running wasn’t my fountain of youth anymore. It was more like the wrong cup at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
With just two weeks until the Run Around the Lake Marathon, I’m still working my way back to loving running again. My mojo (lower-case “m”) seems to be back – I was able to throw down 20 miles in 95° heat and just this morning I ran some pretty strong intervals – but it hasn’t been/isn’t easy yet.
One nice, and unexpected, thing about missing runs due to lack of motivation however has been fresher legs when I DO run. Maybe as I get older, less is more.
Under normal circumstances I think that I would be losing my mind right about now knowing just how crappy my training has been this cycle, but something Joanne over at Apple Crumbles said to me several weeks ago has kept me steady despite my lack of mileage. She said:
“As for the marathon training, you’re a seasoned marathoner. You know what to do to get from mile 1 to mile 26.2. Don’t worry”
You know what? She’s right.
And so I look at that man in the mirror. He may not be as young or as strong or as fast as he was even just 18 months ago (actually I know I’m faster than I was 18 months ago…I just may not be as fast as I was 9 months ago), but he is wiser and has the accumulated knowledge of 6 marathons under his belt.
For the first time since November 2009, I am nervous about running a marathon, but this time it is tempered with the knowledge, as Joanne said, that I “know what to do to get from mile 1 to mile 26.2″.
I will worry, but dammit if I don’t enjoy myself too. We, most of us anyway, don’t do this to finish first – we do this for fun!!! And if I squint my eyes just a little bit, it easily takes 10 years off that guy I see in the mirror.