Yesterday during my morning five miles on my favorite trails in Balboa Park, I encountered a high school girls' cross-country team out on a group run. Immediately I was thinking back fondly to my own experiences running cross-country. I was no star, but I loved absolutely everything about it: the trails, the dirt, the meets, and the great group of kids that I ran with.
Kids. As I watched this pack of teenaged girls run by, I couldn't help but notice their hair. So shiny! Their faces so unwrinkled. Their limbs, so lacking in jiggle and spider veins. And I'll bet not one of them would creak and groan if they stood up after sitting in a chair for an hour. They all seemed to float so effortlessly, compared to what has become my own heavy-footed lumber.
This week, I watched ESPN-W's latest Nine for IX documentary, Runner about the girl running phenom of the 70s (and 80s), Mary Decker Slaney. I was so struck by the early footage of her, gliding along the track in her pigtails and knee socks, with her signature perfect running form. I wondered what 12-year old me would have looked like out there. I was certainly no Little Mary Decker, but boy did running feel different as a kid than it does now.
Back then I needed a warm-up mile before I would feel ready to run hard; today I need about five. In high school I would run on my own in the morning, go to school all day, and then run practice with my team in the evening, without thinking twice about it. Today if I run two days in a row, my hips hurt. In college, I would go to classes all morning, work all evening, and then go for a run before going out dancing on weekend nights. (Well into my 20s, I consistently took myself out for pre-nightclub runs, in order to burn off energy, or else I was never ready leave when the clubs closed at 2:00 am.) Today after work I went to a spin class, and am utterly wiped. I'm going to see a favorite local band play tonight at 9:00 pm (an hour from now), sitting here wondering if the post-dinner cup of coffee required to muster the post-workout energy is going to keep me up all night. Not quite the well-oiled machine I used to be.
My 39th birthday is a few weeks away, and because I am a big proponent of celebrating all birthdays to the absolute greatest extent possible, I've been busy making plans - and in the process giving my own aging a lot of thought. I don't feel "old," exactly, but it certainly occurs to me that I am no longer "young." And while I'm most definitely not someone who is going to fight growing older, I do find myself rising in a bit of opposition to the challenges posed by my aging body. So for my birthday, I've planned an elaborate, all-day endurance event: 39 miles of running (17 miles on the coast highway), swimming (1 mile in La Jolla Cove), cycling (18 miles on the Silver Strand in Coronado), and hiking (3 miles up and down the highest peak in our city, Cowles Mountain). I'm so looking forward to pushing this old girl to her limits in a fun new way, with a tour of some of my favorite parts of San Diego County, with friends and loved ones hopping in to join me for some different parts of the day. No one has yet signed up to do the whole thing with me ... but I'm still holding out hope! Ah, the naivety of youth.