Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Friday, September 8, 2017

Lies and spin

I wrote a month ago that I would not actively seek rehabilitation for my injured right knee or any other running-related malady I might incur in the future. At the time I made the claim, it was, to invoke Politifact "Truth-o-Meter" language, "mostly true." I had an appointment with a sports doc in place for August 18, but I was considering cancelling it, and I wasn't doing any exercises that were likely to  either help or hurt what was ailing me. I was riding my bike around for about an hour a day, but on the whole I had resigned myself to inactivity (the cycling I do doesn't really qualify as exercise), further physical and personality deterioration, and incipient senescence; I had embraced and inarguable certainty that my running -- the entirety of my life , actually -- had been a demoralizing charade of mediocrity punctuated by serious mistakes, and that for a variety of easily demonstrated reasons, it was completely unreasonable that the cosmos was even allowing me to continue existing.

OK, maybe I didn't take my existential crisis and nihilism quite that far, but I did say I'd let nature take its course. I recently described learning that my injury was most likely to the meniscus, not the patellar tendon, and that it would probably go away on its own, with or without me doing some running on it.
I've been running almost every day for the past 2 1/2 weeks, and the problem appears to be getting progressively better. I haven't run for more than 38 minutes at a time, though. I've deliberately avoided hills, which is easy to do in my neighborhood, and have aimed to do about half of my running on grass or dirt. I'll probably try an hour run this weekend.

On Thursday, I saw a physical therapist named Juli at Boulder Community Hospital's Outpatient Rehab service. She knew her stuff well, as all PTs I've ever known do, and we'll be seeing a lot of each other in the near future. It turns out that running tens of thousands of miles over a period of three decades or so and not doing anything inn the way of flexibility exercises tends to lead to a certain burden of muscle tightness, so I've been advised to attend to this potential demon in well-specified ways.

So maybe, I wasn't telling the complete truth when I said I was just going to ride this out with "Screw it" as my unofficial motto. I prefer to think that I wasn't dissembling and that I was merely wrong. I could also employ some introductory-level verbal jujitsu and say that I haven't done any strengthening exercises as Dr. Richey Hansen suggested weeks ago, so I really haven't "actively rehabbed" anything. I've just waited, gone to medical appointments, and allowed my attitude to change.

The thing I can't escape regardless of the flavor my sophistry takes is that I don't know if I can find enjoyment in competing in running races unless I think I have a chance to be reasonably good, a topic I might as well hammer away at since I didn't do an adequate job of this the first 34 times. Age-group "excellence" doesn't really count (notice that if I don't like something, I find a way to discount it often through convoluted strategies of persuasion consisting of saying "that doesn't count") since it's not like I can't see hundreds of people running gaily away from me, as occurred at the Bolder Boulder. None of the gabble about high altitude, course difficulties, GI issues and age-grading changes that reality one bit. 38:31 is still over 20 percent slower than I once ran. And while a 31:00 10K runner isn't even an afterthought in the minds of the national- and world-class runners racking up far faster times, it offers a sufficiently rarefied locomotive environment to avoid having to run near many people who look like they can barely move in a straight line and have clearly bid adieu not only their best days, but also to any remotely good ones. In other words, people like me.


  1. Your writing echoes the process going on here with the aging running community. Every year...heck every few months it seems someone has to hang them up, or resort to a very low amount of running. I see it in myself. The inability to run with any speed, longer recovery, and yes the dings to the mothership one cannot wish away. There are a few still grinding away as I recently saw one of the locals run 1:27 for a half at age 60. To some I know this looks comical, but when you get near this age it's what we have to aim at. Good luck with the knee.

    1. It's funny that when I see a runner in his or her prime who gets it done despite horrible form or presenting a picture of abject suffering (like Paula Radcliffe or that one 2:10-ish Japanese guy in the 1980s who looked like he was about to topple to one side), I think it's great. When I see the same thing in an older runner, I'm tempted to dismiss it as funny or pitiful. No reason it can't be funny and pathetic at the same time, though -- that's elective running in a nutshell.

    2. And on a housekeeping front, GMail doesn't like the domain of the e-mail address you use for commenting here, so the notifications get tossed into the Spam folder. That's why your contributions sometimes take a couple of days to appear -- I have to actively for look comments that are sitting in the "awaiting approval" queue.