I remember when I was not even a little bit in shape enough to run a 5k. Luckily, the peak of my “out of shape” time happened in my early 20s, so I was never out of shape enough to not be able to “run” a mile. But still. Back then, I wondered why anyone would ever run. I thought people who paid to be in races were downright crazy. Paying someone else money to run? Madness.
Now here I am, three years later, and I have to actively stop myself from registering for every 10k+ race in my area. I’ve even gotten snobbish to the point of thinking 5k races are beneath me. Well, not exactly. I tend to think it’s silly to pay for those because it’s just so easy to go out and run 3.1 miles on my own. I don’t need anyone to set up a course for me, or provide water stops, or cheer me on. At this point, a 5k is quite a short distance for me. I usually run 4-6 miles when I’m out on my own, because it hardly seems worth the effort to “suit up” just to run 3.
I have reached a new peak of fitness, and I continue to climb. It’s funny, because progress is so rewarding. In this case, the journey has been wonderful, and I have loved having goals to work towards. I know I haven’t reached my limit, and that’s an inspiring position to be in. However, at some point, if I continue on my current trajectory, I will inevitably reach the pinnacle of fitness and running success. What happens then? How will it feel to be in a “maintenance” stage of fitness? What will it take to keep me excited about running and getting stronger when I have checked off all the items on my bucket list? Perhaps that’s why people are constantly turning to new challenges like ultras and triathlons, or just increasing the frequency of their races and racking up the medal count? Maybe I won’t ever be satisfied until I’ve run Boston or the Badwater Ultra? Honestly, I am nervous about getting bored with running once my improvements begin to level off, or even decline as I get older.
But I do know this… I want the body of an aging runner. I was that healthy glow, those lean limbs, the mobility and agility of someone much younger than my years. I want to look doctors in the face at 65 and for them to applaud me on how well I’ve held up, and what great life decisions I’ve consistently made. So maybe that should be my ultimate measure of success: good health over a lifetime. I kind of botched it for the first 20ish years, but that’s what fresh starts are for, right? It’s never too late to work towards good health, and now that I’ve started, I just don’t want to stop.
So much has changed for me over the past few years. Not just running… Family. Life. Responsibilities. I hardly even recognize the person I was back then. I have a completely different set of priorities. I wonder how much change will take place in the next 5 years?