So last night, I went running down my usual path by the Hudson River, going my normal just-under-8:00-mile pace. The sun was starting to go down, there was a breeze blowing and I was enjoying myself. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by teenage girls with no shirts on! No, I hadn't come across a true-life male fantasy, it was a high school cross country team, out for a run at the end of their practice. It's quite common for cross country runners to practice wearing only a sports bra (I don't know why but that's what they do.)
Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like a group of high school girl runners in sports bras to instantly make you feel like a slow, fat has-been. Which is exactly how I felt. Luckily, in a few short seconds, they had whizzed on by and there I was, left behind and feeling incredibly, undeniably old.
Fact: Paula Radcliffe won the NYC Marathon less than a year after giving birth. DAMN.
I'm no Paula Radcliffe but I was a pretty competitive runner in high school and college. And I remember, when I was training for a competition, I'd run by some recreational runner and feel a sense of satisfaction that I was a "real runner," not just someone out for a jog. My, how the tables have turned...
I wanted to catch up and shout "I was once one of you!" Remind them that just because I run slow now, it doesn't mean I wasn't fast at one point. But of course, I didn't. Instead, I waited a few minutes for the pangs of jealousy to subside, continued my run and thought about why I wanted to be with that pack of teenage cross-country runners. I guess it's because they were a physical reminder of what I used to be and what I no longer am. And the more that I thought about it, the more I felt ok with that. No, I am not competing for my high school or college anymore. No, I can't run a sub-5:00 1500 m anymore. And no, I do not look like those cross-country runners without my shirt on. But, for some reason even I can't quite identify, I think I like me better now. As time passes, our bodies slow down (except for Paula's). I no longer feel intense pressure to perform in competitions. Which is a relief. And the way it should be.
Any former athletes know what I'm talking about?