“But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged Chariot hurrying near” Andrew Marvell
Probably about a decade or so ago I remember running several 100km events in France – it might have been Cléder or Millau and inevitably running alongside a seasoned ‘cent bornard’ (literally translated 100km ultra-runner). As these are endurance events one is expected to be able to hold a conversation whilst running and in France socializing before, during and after such events is common. My older fellow ultra runner would then start listing his past achievements and PB’s – usually very impressive – and then complain about his lack of present form and recent injuries. At this point I would politely ‘up the pace’ a little to distance myself from him and the incessant complaining and nostalgia of the past.
10 years on and a niggling injury later I have reviewed my attitude in the past. It all started after a visit to my French radiologist in Paris. I’d been struggling with a foot injury which I suspected was a stress fracture but had bravely or probably stupidly ignored it and run with the pain for 6 months even completing my 13th Comrades in South Africa – hobbling before and after. The radiologist – a charming Frenchman confirmed it wasn’t a stress fracture but ‘arthrose’ a very nice sounding word in French but when I googled it in English it translates as ‘osteoarthritis’ which is much less nice sounding and conjures up images of deformities, aging, crutches……….Mr C, the charming radiologist described it like this:
‘You’ve been driving a Porsche for 18 years at 250km/hour and it’s getting a little tired. You have to slow down’
I liked the Porsche image – never having been one for speed sessions or time trails. To be honest I run more on diesel – economical, steady and long. Still the news wasn’t good……what happened to the days when a 3-week ‘holiday’ in South Africa would be a 90km Comrades ‘training run’ the day after I landed, the hilly Knysna Marathon as recovery run a week after and a 100-miler key race the week after that. ‘Recovery’ was not part of my running vocabulary.
Today I need a month to recover from Comrades……
Two Crunchies and a packet of Maltesers after googling the definition (wear and tear, degenerative disease) and treatment (none) of osteoarthritis, I sat down with a glass of good South African wine, put my deformed foot up and decided ‘cest la vie’ ….yep I need more time to recover but I can still do those ultras I love (maybe not every weekend now) and
‘ Life shouldn’t be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways- Chardonnay in one hand – chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up – totally worn out and screaming “whoo hoo what a ride’!
And aujourd’hui I raise my glass to those athletes who can teach some youngsters cum couch potatoes a thing or two:
Wally Hayward five times Comrades winner who completed his last 90km Comrades just before his 81st birthday
Ed Whitlock Canadian 73 years young athlete who ran a 2:54 marathon
Not to mention
Finally some words of wisdom to reflect on before I go out for my second training run today:
“Age brings problems, it also brings solutions. For every disadvantage there is an advantage. For every measurable loss there is a measurable gain” George Sheehan.