I recently decided to enter some races on the track. A good friend encouraged me to try coming back to sprinting and I did. He’s 55+ and I’m 52. For our respective ages, we’re in pretty good shape. I hadn’t run a track race in about 15 years.
So yes, I reactivated my track club membership and signed up to run the 100m and 200m sprints in the Vienna Masters championships. Here are some of my observations from the experience:
- When we say age is nothing but a number it’s true and it is also true that numbers can have meaning.
- Running at 50 for me is very different from how I ran at the end of my competitive middle and long distance career at 36. My body doesn’t want to go too hard or too long. Recovery gets priority.
Finding out that sprint training at 50+ requires not so much speed and strength as it does patience. #GoSlowtobeFast cc: @Sisyphus38
— Sherri Spelic (@edifiedlistener) July 18, 2017
- As an older athlete, enhancing performance = staving off and postponing decline. I won’t get faster, per se, so the trick is to avoid getting much slower.
- I prepared for these races by aiming to do ‘just enough’ and not more.
- Instead of running all the time I opted for inline skating or walking while adding some technique drills along the way.
- It is a reality that I wake up stiff and my first steps out of bed are tentative and cautious. This is true whether I work out quite a lot or very little.
- Arm flexibility and strength will likely be a greater factor in racing success than leg speed over the long haul.
- My goal going into this was to race without getting injured and I almost made it.
I felt pretty cool coming around the bend of my maters 200 race approaching the lead. Ping at 170m, finish in 2nd, glad to be able to walk.🙄
— Sherri Spelic (@edifiedlistener) July 23, 2017
Sometimes the biggest successes are when we simply follow through and do what we said we would do.
— Sherri Spelic (@edifiedlistener) July 22, 2017
I don’t have any previous experience with this aging game; I’m just feeling my way. So far, so good. One of the highlights of participating this weekend was seeing folks (mostly men) much older, 70 – 80, running, jumping and throwing, too. You see what’s possible and what the sport, the camaraderie can give a person.
Meanwhile, my spunky super athletic 9 year old proved to be a vocal and somewhat critical spectator. That said, I don’t doubt that it made him proud to see his mom step up onto the top spot and receive a medal. According to him my start in the 200 wasn’t so great but then I was really fast in the curve but at the very end I looked like Voldemort, so yeah. Modeling takes many forms. Impression made.
On the first day I was nervous – like ‘had to go potty numerous times’ nervous. It was a strange throwback – to feel that physical expression of performance anxiety, before a ridiculous 100m race! And in the blocks I messed around with different settings which prompted the starter to give me a few tips. (Mind you, I have been teaching block starts to athletes for over 20 years.) And then it was, “Auf die Plaetze, Fertig, *boom*. Behold, I started just fine.
Gearing up for the 200 on Sunday I took a second to think of one of my most coachable athletes who has stellar starts. I was channeling “KL cool” stepping into the blocks and that gave me a little smile. It also reminded me how wonderful and fulfilling it can be to know something so well – this process, the commands, my response, the tension, the release – even after all these years it is still a mystery and an intimacy. That was a gift.
To sum up I want to borrow some words I read in the New York Times recently:
“…that was super-duper…that was very much more than normal…and do you know what else was nice? – It was limited. You know, it was two hours…It didn’t go a whole day. … You don’t want to leave but you have to … the whole thing, it was an incredible thing.”
It was all “an incredible thing” and probably worth attempting again. I learned that I enjoy the tension of competing. I can be “in it to win it” but winning is broadly defined: finishing, staying healthy, following through.
If this is what I’m saying at 50+, I can only wonder what my next decades may bring.
If I’m lucky, more of this. (Humblebrag, I made my very first GIF!)
image: (c) Me, my, mine. Thanks.
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