Participating in a 5k run at my age is humbling. I recently completed my first one since turning 70 and my time has nearly doubled since my 40s!
When I wonder why I keep doing them, I remind myself that I am the type of person who has to "enrol" in activities or I won’t go. For example, there is an adequate exercise room at the clubhouse in my neighbourhood. I don't even need to get in my car. But I never go there. If I join an expensive gym, I will go at least four times a week. I am also an artist, but do I go to my studio for a few hours every day? No, I have to take a class in order to keep active.
Plus, I know 5k runs are a good way to get in a nice brisk walk that I otherwise would not do.
This 5k was held at my favourite park on a nice spring day:
Exhilaration flows through me as I wait in the crowd for the signal to begin. I take off running as the cameras flash at the start line. I don't want to look like I really shouldn't be there, so I try to keep up the pace. But it isn't long before I slow down considerably and the younger folks whiz by. Then I settle into my "race walk" pace. People continue to pass. After the "real" runners, come folks who are a little older and not as fit, until I am the last one in the crowd. I worry I may get lost if I lose sight of the others.
First kilometre marker coming up: I learn from the volunteer posted there that 15 minutes have passed. That isn't so bad! I could complete this in 45 minutes if I keep the pace. I try to focus on that and not on the beautiful wildflowers, flowering trees, ponds and musicians along the way.
Then the walkers, who started a few minutes after the runners, begin to appear! The reason I don't register as a "walker" is that they are not timed and ineligible for prizes. But when they start to pass me, I feel slightly sheepish but I push on.
I watch folks as they pass, and it seems I put my feet down at the same time as they do. I am not short, my legs are as long as anybody's, so I know my stride should be equal to theirs. I can't for the life of me figure out the dynamics of this. The walkers bring their dogs and children in strollers, and whole families participate. One woman effortlessly passes me as she pushes a stroller with a dog tied to it and chats on her phone!
Second kilometre marker: there is a huge bowl of peanut M&Ms and volunteers pass out water. I should not stop or even slow down, but it doesn't take that long to grab a handful of candy and a cup of water. Mmmmmm, a magnolia tree in full bloom, chomp chomp.
Folks need to make pit stops with their pets, but they eventually pass me again. Pairs of people walk by and talk to each other. I don't think I could even speak as I recover from the initial spurt of speed I exerted at the beginning.
We come to a bend in the trail and I can glance back and see that I am not the last one! This fact and the chocolate give me the impetus to pick up my pace.
Finally, I see the four-kilometre marker. Usually, when I reach this marker I like to run to the finish line. This time, I cannot do it. My legs feel like tree stumps. But people yell encouragement and I do manage a feeble effort to the end. Fifty-three minutes! I have attained my goal of under one hour. My husband meets me at the finish line and is proud that I made it.
Volunteers make pancakes for everyone. There are bananas, apples, oranges, granola bars, water and Gatorade. People mill about. We talk to many of them. Everyone is happy. The total amount of money raised for this very good cause is announced. I feel a sense of fellowship and accomplishment.
I wait awhile during the awards ceremony because I am in the last category. "Women 15-19 years old" they say and I whisper to my enormously patient husband, "50 years to go."
Finally, it’s my turn. The room has thinned out as people leave after they receive their awards. But a few stay to applaud for Women 70-74 years old, "Well WOMAN," they say, "you are the only one, you won it all!" And they put all three medals, 1st, 2nd and 3rd, around my neck.
My husband and I laugh all the way to our car as I clink along with all my medals. Is this how Clara Hughes felt?
I have already registered for the next one!
SEPTEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
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