The joys of being over the hill

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The Kusam Klimb.

"Are you tough enough?" asks the website. Of course. It’s only 21 kilometres. Sure it starts at sea level and grinds its way up to 1,482 metres in a breath-sucking 7.7 kilometres. But I am tough enough.

I trained fairly consistently for this quite grueling Vancouver Island event, running hill repeats. I trained carefully because of an injury aggravated on a final training trot up the minor bump that is Morro Peak in Jasper. It was a knee tweak. Two days later behind the Meadowview Ball Diamonds, I tweaked it a bit more. Something that a 16-year-old would shrug off and heal from while sleeping sidelined me. No Kusam Klimb for me. So much for being tough enough. January 1 of 1973, I made one resolution that stuck. In the year of Watergate and Vietnam and Led Zeppelin is when this once 16-year-old started running. The self righteousness of adolescence made me leap into something because, well, I was a self righteous adolescent, and I had found the only way to live. I ran because it felt good and because it made me a better climber and backpacker and skier, all things I was getting “into.” It’s been 40 years and I continue to do all of the above. However, at 56 I don’t have the cartilage and soft tendons and VO2 max of a 16-year-old. As we get older, we naturally lose suppleness and strength and we don’t recover as quickly. We’ll never be as fast as we were. And I hate it.

But we are more than our soft tissue. While my body has aged I think I’ve been doing a bit of maturing as well. I hope I’m more supportive of others than I was. I have life experience. Helped raise a family. I’m less self righteous. There is something about being slightly mellowed with age that I enjoy. And while I’d love to have the body of a 17-year-old old again, I don’t want that person back. Our pasts are passed and they have built us to be who we are. But they are behind us. So I welcome other aging athletes who are reading this to join me in celebrating where we have gone and what lies ahead. Not in terms of personal bests and race placements. But in setting sensible, achievable goals … so maybe we get hurt less. Whatever happens next, happens next. But we are better as we age in ways only we can know. In a north Edmonton plant store there is a sign that reads:

“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way. And some of the roads weren’t paved.”

Kusam will be there next year and I’ll possibly give it a shot. I want to see what it’s like from the top and enjoy the descent, enjoying being over the hill.

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St. Albert Gazette

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