Monday, August 27, 2018

You Folks Need To Get In Better Shape

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This last weekend I did something I'd been contemplating for over two years.

I ran a 5K race.

Yes, I know. This blog is supposed to be about writing. I don't get any great inspiration while running. Just perspiration. And while I did write a couple of articles for the Baltimore Road Runners Club newsletter in the distant past, that is about as much of a tie to writing as I can make. My main reason for running is it helps relieve stress and keeps my aging body moving. I sit much of the time these days—at work, while commuting, and while writing. My backside needs an occasional change of pace.

I used to run a lot. That was about twenty years ago, however. I'd occasionally gone jogging since then, but life's events and my work schedule had mostly eliminated any sort of regular exercise. Still, a return to running, especially on the trails, had been creeping into my thoughts for a while now.

It was with the encouragement of a stranger (under unusual circumstances that would add nothing to this story) that the commitment to enter a race was made. I told myself I would train hard and do the best I could.

Except I didn't. Not really. I hardly ran at all. I resigned myself to the thought of finishing dead last and barely dragging my spent body across the finish line. But the commitment had been made. I would not back out. I had signed up early. Even got a senior discount! BTW, that thrill dissipates quickly once you realize it only means you're getting old.

The route was on the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail near Bel Air, Maryland. I'd run a race there many years ago.  Once I checked out the trail map I remembered why I hated this course. The last half is all uphill. Thank you, sir. May I have another?

There aren't many spaces at the trailhead to park and these were taken up by the race staff. The only place close by was next to a funeral home. Was this coincidence or fate? Only time would tell.

The building next to where I parked for the race
The building next to where I parked for the race

Once parked, I made my way to the registration table. I picked up my bib and souvenir t-shirt, and then I checked for the restrooms. They had one spot-a-pot. ONE. I could had tied that up until race time all by myself. Come on, Charm City Run! Get real!

The start finish line at the "Age is but a #" 5K race
The start finish line at the "Age Is But A #" 5K race

I walked around and jogged a little to get warmed up. Not too much, though. I didn't want to wear myself out before the race even started.

Finally, the call was made for the runners to line up. The starter's pistol sounded. I was off. Well, eventually. If you've ever started a race when lined up at the back of the pack, you'll understand.

The first mile came up quicker than I'd expected. I was wondering if I'd gone out too fast. By 'fast' I mean waddled more quickly than I should have. I knew the last half of the race would be tough. Would I be able to finish?

As a side note, why does a 5K race have sections marked in miles? Must be American exceptionalism. We make you learn math in order to run. Just one of the reasons why I love this country.

When I reached the turn-around point, I saw the water cooler. My eyes fixated on the orange plastic barrel. Even though the temperature was in the low sixties, I needed a drink badly. Unfortunately, there was no one manning (or womanning or even beasting) the water stop. No smooth hand-off of a cup of water here. I had to stop, open the plastic bag of cups, find the spigot on the cooler, and get my drink. This was costing me precious seconds (minutes?). Come on, Charm City Run! Get real! Wait. I already said that once.

After disposing of the cup, I looked up the trail. Yes, up. Dang. It didn't seem that steep coming down. I contemplated getting another drink. No, they'll probably hook me right up to an IV in the hospital anyway. My legs were not prepared for this. And yet I managed to pass a few other runners. And a few passed me. For the last mile, I went back and forth with a woman, exchanging places as we crept up the hills. I was finally able to pull away on the last stretch, beating her by about sixteen seconds. And she was eighteen years my junior. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite catch the thirty-six-year-old lady who finished just ahead of me—well, not and live to tell about it. I was exhausted and covered in sweat. She looked like she'd taken a short walk around the block. I'm so out of shape.

When the results were posted, I noticed something odd. Instead of finishing last, I was sixth out of fourteen in my age group (60 to dead). I was in the middle third of all runners on the course. That's about where I used to finish twenty years ago.

That's not too bad, you say? True. I was quite pleased even though my time was abysmal. But it shouldn't have happened. There's no way I should have placed that high. I've never been a great runner, and now I'm terribly out of shape. I'm overweight. In the last three years I've run perhaps five times. That is not a valid training regimen.

All I can think is how many others in the race were in worse shape than me. That's a bit sad. And maybe that's why the funeral home picked its current business location. You folks need to get moving. I know I am. Fear is a great motivator. It appears every time I look in the mirror. Age has not been my friend. I guess what I'm saying is if a wheezy geezer like me can outrun you, perhaps it's time to think about getting a little more active.

Anyway, I'm going to keep running and get in better shape. Maybe do another race. Why? I have more stories to write and being published posthumously doesn't sound all that appealing!

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved


  1. You could submit this to a running magazine. It's brilliant! It made me laugh. Great bit to wake up to on a Tuesday. I ran a 5k for the first time in 3 years on Sat night. My knees hurt, but I made my best time. #keeprunning

    1. Thanks! I knew when I saw there was a comment it would be you! You may be the only runner who reads my blog. Yes, I have to start doing something to trim down a little before I get so old I can't move at all.

      Oh, and the blog needed something fresh, too. Haven't done a piece like this in a while.

  2. I don't know how you do it. I can't get round the block! I do a nice gentle 10 mins workout everyday - mix of Yoga and Pilates, nothing strenuous. I need to do more I know I do, but time is always so tight. Well done you!

    1. I do understand how difficult it is to find the time to exercise. And it’s especially hard when you have young children to care for. I’ve been neglecting my health for too long and I want to get into better condition so I can enjoy my later years. Unfortunately, I seem to be one of those people who need a long workout to get much benefit. Time will tell if I’m successful with my running efforts. I’m looking at another race in October. The weather will be cooler and the course flatter. If I make it, I’ll do another post. BTW, yoga can be a good way to build muscle tone and work out some of the tightness that some exercises (like running) can cause. You’ll see a number of folks doing that as part of their pre-race warm-up.


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