Offen: Running for my life
First, the good news. The other weekend, I ran a 5K race and I did not end up in the emergency room. In fact, I finished second in my age group.
The bad news is that I’m not sure there were more than two people in my age group.
And to make it worse, the other guy in my age group just managed to edge me out by a hair — or more precisely, by 17 minutes.
I know I should nevertheless be grateful that I came in second in my age group considering that many people in my age group are dead — or worse, they are on hold with the cable company. And yet, I still have this sense of unfulfilled expectations.
A couple of years ago, I had decided that I should set for myself a physical goal, something that would test my mettle and let me find out if, in fact, I had any mettle left and if that was the reason I was having so much difficulty getting through security control at airports.
As I was getting older, I wanted a challenge that would show everyone I was not getting older. I wanted a challenge that would stretch me and test me and show everyone that even at my age, I was still capable of major accomplishments and extremely foolish physical exertions.
I considered parachute jumping, snowboarding and eating raw oysters in months without an “R.”
Instead, I decided that I was going to run a half marathon.
I think I may have made this decision before I discovered that a half marathon is actually, in point of fact, half a full marathon. That it is actually 13.1 miles, which, I believe, is the exact distance from here to the emergency room.
Nevertheless, I pursued this goal with the same dedication, determination and perseverance that got me kicked out of college three separate times.
I bought fancy running socks. I purchased a fancy running jacket. I acquired two running caps, one for the winter and one for the summer. Both of them were fancy.
I downloaded an app for my smartphone that would measure my running — how many miles I ran, how many calories expended, how many times I said I’m going to go out running but decided against it because it was too cold. Or hot. Or rainy. Or not rainy enough.
Occasionally, in between excuses, I also trained — or, as we runners like to say, ran. I worked on my stride and my stamina and my speed — or, as some of us runners like to say, I thought about working on my stride and my stamina and my speed while watching television and eating pretzels.
I had hoped to be ready for the half marathon by this spring, marathon season, when “13.1” bumper stickers blossom on cars everywhere. Instead, I ran a 5K, and although I came in second in my age group, I have begun looking for a month without an “R”.
Neil Offen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.