Sunday, July 15, 2007

Glory Days

I was never an athlete. Not in elementary school. Not in middle school, and certainly not in high school where I actually earned my only "D"—in gym class. And when I say "earned," I mean earned. I mean, you really have to work hard to get a "D" in gym. It's not like any idiot can do it. I fondly recall skipping out on gym to do fun stuff like drive with my other hip friends to McDonalds in my little fluorescent orange austin america to flip french fries on the hood and watch the birds gobble them up.

Does it get any better than that?

Yet I read about many of you who, after lounging through your 20s, 30s and 40s decide to "get back into" sports. Some of you were serious high school or college athletes (you know who you are!). And I get jealous. And think to myself, self? What were you doing all that time?!

I get jealous because, well, I'm shallow. Plus, I think: "Oh well sure, it's easy to get back INTO something after a 20-year-hiatus" or "I wish I had a base like that to build on." (Yes, I seriously think like this.)

Well, I can partially—OK, largely—blame the culture and the decades in which I came of age for my lack of athleticism. I went to elementary school in the 60s, where sports for girls were nonexistent (unless you count dodgeball, an activity which has now been banned at many schools for being harmful to children's self-esteem—see this blog, exhibit A); an inner city middle school during the height of forced busing (sports took a back seat to daily chaos); and an all-girls Catholic high school in the 70s. My high school—Sacred Heart Academy—had great basketball and volleyball teams, and I should have been a shoo-in for either due to my height (5'9") but I was too cool for sports. I was so in I was out.

I worked three jobs to get through college (yes in the snow), but even if I hadn't I don't think sports would have been on my agenda, though I do remember seeing the girls' crew team recruiting and thinking that would be fun. (I was obviously clueless.)

In my 20s and 30s I always tried to exercise but it was half-hearted and I would never have dreamed of calling myself an athlete.

Do I have a point?

Hang on, I'm getting there!

This little reminiscence wrote itself as I listened to the latest episode of my favorite podcast, Phedippidations, episode #105, "Running Over 50." And as I listened (which if you are over or even near 50 you should definitely check it out, and whatever age you should subscribe because this is a seriously great podcast), I had a little epiphany and it went like this: that THESE are my glory days, right now, right here—that they're still before me, not behind me.

All thanks to being a slacker in high school!

I have things to look forward to! Running things! Sports things! And no matter how crappy I'm running right now, I know that I'm building toward something, I'm working toward something. It might not come today (uh, definitely not today), or tomorrow (got that right), or even a year from now.

See? With age comes wisdom.

I suppose it's possible I could quit this whole running thing, as I have threatened to many times, but I don't think I will. I mean, I hate the actual running part as my loyal readers well know, but the other parts? Like the blogging part? And the racing part? And the people I've met part? And the "afterglow" part? These are what I think the (psychiatric) literature calls the "secondary rewards" of an activity. I like these things and I don't want to give them up.

So, in celebration of my glory days, I have started afresh with another running program, the D.C. Road Runners Ten Mile Program, led by this guy, culminating in this race in October.

And even though I tried to run six miles on Sunday and it felt like oh, six million, take it from me: there is glory in the trying.

My pace group, part of the Ten Mile Group.


LBTEPA said...

That's why I like running too - I'm so crap at it I can't help but get better all the time! But being a beginner is so exciting too - every little step is a huge victory over the unknown and the terrifying. And as for the lovely people you meet on the journey, you are right, they ARE the best bit :)

21stCenturyMom said...

Whoa - harmonic convergence. I was having thoughts very similar to this today. I hadn't articulated 'Glory Days' but that is such an apt description.

Thanks for sharing your great thoughts and rock on with your badass running self. You ARE a runner.

IHateToast said...

hm. i can't say i'm getting back into anything i did, because the most i ran competitively was 2 miles (x-c). in track i just did the 400, 800, 1600 and various relays (as long as i ran more than 399 metres). long runs were 7 miles, but they were l.s.d. so running the marathons were new to me.

i also played soccer for 12 years, but i'm not getting back into that for no other reason that i enjoy not coordinating playing or practicing with anyone. too much of a commitment.

it is depressing to get back into things, because if the photos from high school weren't enough, you also have times you'll never come near again. and it's even more depressing when your times weren't all that flash.

but i slacked. wednesdays were supposed to be for l.s.d., but most of the time, we cut it short by a mile so we could swim in the apt complex pools we passed, screw around in an air-conditioned grocery store (where we often pantsed each other like classy dames), or bought skin mags to put up in chemistry class the next day (only did it once, but mr lowe was a dih-ked and deserved it).

aaaaah youth.

Juls said...

Glory day, Jeanne. They are here.

Chanda said...

Saw your post throught the RBF... And just had to comment. Like you I never did any sports, all through school I used every excuse known to mankind to skip it. At the start of the year I got bored on a thread mill and took a few running steps... a few months later I started running outdoors. I love running and for the first time take my training seriously... yes, I am slow and will never win any races, thats not the goal... I improve myself a little bit each time I get out there... my mind or my body or both...

I am also a fellow Phedip. listener, love that podcast!

Thanks for a Great post!

Nancy Toby said...

Great post!!! I love it!! Just when I was feeling grouchy about this chick on one of my lists b!tching because she was going to run her next marathon over 3:20.... up frickin' Pike's Peak...

Scott said...

Thanks Jeanne!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a lapsed/post-injury, too fat and too old to live runner [sic]...

I'm desperately looking for a reason/motivation to put down the tub of ice cream to start ALL OVER again... way back... at the beginning.

Reading your blog gives me hope that it can happen for me. At some point it all went bad cuz I thought I couldn't run a marathon -now I just want to run.

As I sit here this morning, I cannot find a single argument with your idea that THESE are the glory days. Wisdom that is so simple and obvious....

Take care, Scott

Laurie said...

I'm glad to be part of the 'people I've met part' of running!

I enjoyed this post even if I am only in my 20s. The moment we are in is what matters. We can't live waiting for what may or may not happen. I am so happy that you took those first steps to get out the door and become a runner. You rock!

peter said...

What a handsome group of people! Look at the same picture twelve weeks from now, and the ones who stick with the program will be even more svelte, smiling even more broadly and exuding confidence. (Remember how great you were running just before your surgery.) Your Sunday six miler? I also crashed and burned on my long run that morning. It was 92 degrees and humid, Jeanne! You, like all the runners in the group who stay with it and get better, are an athlete.

L*I*S*A said...

I love your post. It reminds me of why I run. I may not be the fastest out there, but I am determined to enjoy the ride, attempt to better myself and hopefully encourage others to jump in and try their hand at a sport I love.

Thomas said...

With age comes wisdom? You mean there is still hope for me?

David said...

You are fired up, aren't you? These ARE glory days. You never ran so much, so fast and so far in your life and here you are with a chance to do it all again.
The Army 10 Miler and the lead up program got me excited and I'm not even there to do it. I am excited for you. That's a great race and training load. Now sign up for the race before it sells out!

:AM said...

I agree..these are the glory days. And you should celebrate every day that we no longer have to SUFFER through our 20s...cause girls indeed do suffer though their 20s. Ahem...but just don't start dressing or dancing like Bruce and his strange little guitar friend.

Phoenix said...

Carpe Diem, baby! You are the glory in these days! I've found myself jealous of the born athletes a time or two - but I think they miss out on so much of the spiritual and mental growth that happen for a person who trains even though it doesn't come easily for them. I'm going to imagine that they miss out, anyway, so I can feel superior. Because that, ultimately, is what life's about. Feeling superior.

PS - you are going to ROCK that training, girl. ROCK. IT.

Just12Finish said...

Hehe, Springsteen would be so proud of you. And will Peter. Glory days indeed!

kiki said...

a great post. Good luck with your training. My mom is 60 and just started running last year.