A Philosopher's Blog

Running Down the Hill of Life

Posted in Philosophy, Running, Sports/Athletics by Michael LaBossiere on October 2, 2015

Each of us has their own hill (or mound or even mountain) that is life. I can see the hills of other people. Some are still populated, some still bear the warm footprints of a recently departed fellow runner (goodbye Eric), and so very many of the others are cold with long abandonment. While I can see these other hills, I can only run my own and no one else can run mine. That is how it is, poetry and movies notwithstanding.  In truth, we all run alone.

I am in fact and metaphor a distance runner. Running the marathon and even greater distances, gave me a sneak preview of old age. I finished my firsTurkey Trot 11-27-2008t marathon at the age of 22, at the peak of my strength, crossing the line in 2:45. Having consulted with old feet at marathons, I knew that the miles would beat me like a piñata—only instead of candy, I would be full of pain. I hobbled along slowly for the next few days—barely able to run. But, being young, I was soon back up to speed, forgetting that brief taste of the cruelty of time. But time never forgets us.

We runners have an obsession with numbers. We record our race times, our training distances and many other things. While everyone is aware that the march of time eventually becomes a slide downhill, runners are thus forced to face the objective quantification of their decline. Though I started running in high school, I did not become a runner until after my first year as a college athlete in 1985 and I only started recording my run data back in 1987. I, with complete faith in my young brain, was sure I would remember my times forever.

My first victory in a 5K was in 1985—I ran an 18:20 for the win. My time improved considerably: I broke 18, then 17 and (if my memory is not a false one) even 16. Then, as must happen, I reached the peak of my running hill and the decline began. I struggled to stay under 17, fought to stay under 18, battled to stay below 19, and then warred to remain below 20. The realization of the damage done by time sunk home when my 5K race pace was the same as the pace for my first marathon. Once, I sailed through 26.2 miles at about a 6:20 per mile pace. Now I have to work hard to do that for a 5K. Another marker was when my 5-mile race time finally became slower than my 10K race time (33 minutes). Damn the numbers.

Each summer, I return to my home town and run the routes of my youth. Back in the day, I would run 16 miles at a 7 minute per mile pace. Now I shuffle along 2 and a half minutes per mile slower. But, dragging all those years will slow a man down. When I run those old routes, I speed up when I hit the coolness of the pine forest—the years momentarily drop away and I feel like a young man again. But, like the deerflies that haunt my run, they soon catch up. Like the deerflies, the years bite. Unlike the deerflies, I cannot just swat them down. Rather, they are swatting me down and, like many a deerfly, I will eventually be crushed and broken by a great hand. In this case, not the hand of some guy from Maine, but the hand of time. Someday, as has happened to friends, I will go out for a run and never come back. But until that day, the run goes on. And on.

 

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Running the Half

Posted in Running by Michael LaBossiere on February 9, 2010

Back on March 26 I fell off a ladder and tore my quadriceps tendon. On April 3 I had it sewn back together. Before the surgery, I asked the doctor if I would be able to run again and he assured me that I would. He did, however, say that I’d be out for months.

On that day I planned to be recovered enough to run the Tallahassee Half Marathon on February 7. I started running again on September 4 and gradually built up from a hideous and slow jog to something that looks like running.

Early on the morning of February 7 I was there at the starting line, my scar a clear reminder of my past injury. Since I had not been able to train properly for the event (that is, lots of long runs over a long period of time) I was a bit worried. Also, I had my pride to worry about as well. Back in the day I had run 2:45 marathons and 1:22 half marathons, so I had memories of how good I once was to keep me company.

The race went better than I expected: I ended up crossing the finish line 1 hour and 38 minutes after I crossed the starting line. Although I ran it at a slower pace than I had done in ultra marathons, I was proud that I had kept to my plan-I had run the Tallahassee Half Marathon on my regrown tendon.

I hope to run the full marathon next year. It has been far too long since I have visited the realm of 26.2 miles and I’m sure those miles have missed me. I know I have missed them.

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Athletes & Age

Posted in Sports/Athletics by Michael LaBossiere on July 16, 2009

Having crossed the 40 year mark a few years ago, I have been pleased to see various “older” athletes doing very well in sports. Naturally, Lance Armstrong and Dara Torres have been the ones to get the most attention, but there are many non-professional athletes who are doing quite well at “advanced” ages.

Of course, “advanced” age is a relative thing. In sports, people in their 30s are considered “old”, but in other aspects of life they are considered young. While the idea that 30 and 40 year old folks can still compete against the kids might be surprising, it is certainly surprising that some folks in their 50s and 60s can still give the kids quite a bit of competition. For example, some very good runners are in their 50s and up-and they still compete well against the 20 somethings. This is especially true in endurance events. While youth has speed and energy, old age has endurance and experience and these mean a great deal in endurance events such as biking and marathon running.

One reason why people are staying competitive longer is because of advances in medicine, training techniques, and other factors that have also had the general effect of enabling people to live longer.

One of the most important reasons why older folks are staying competitive longer is probably psychological. Back in the day, people would compete in high school, then college and a rare few would go pro. But even the pros would stop competing after a while. When people grew up, they mostly stopped being active athletes.  These days, people are more inclined to stick with sports as they age, thus extending their competitive life span. In short, the older folks are competing well in part because they have stayed in the competition rather than hanging up their shoes.

Although my quadriceps tendon injury has kept me out of the running competition since the end of March, my plan is to get back to racing this Fall or winter. Of course, at this point I am just walking (at about 75% my old speed). But, it is just a matter of time before I’ll be back in the race again-older, but still competing.

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