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.
— 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.