Reflections of an Aging Athlete on a Year’s End

While traveling this past week, I picked up portions of an NPR radio program new to me, New Dimensions. Although I have not been able to locate the exact program online, bits and pieces of its insight have been running through my thoughts since hearing it. I’m piecing together the information as a montage, so please allow me to ramble.

Credit: Todd Miller

The gist of the discussion was how we approach aging and the ultimate result of that aging. We in the 60+ group have an expanded opportunity for a “third age,” a time when we can continue to be productive, insightful, active. However, not all of us will have equivalent aging experiences and abilities.  Not everyone will sustain energy levels with the same level of success.

This struck me. Occasionally when I am running, a person I pass on the street will comment “I wish I could do what you’re doing.” I haven’t said it, but at those moments I think very loudly “You can do what I do.” But, perhaps that is wrong.
That stranger on the street may be dealing with an injury, other life demands or simply a diminished energy level. Whatever the situation, it is that person’s life experience and physical ability they are dealing with as I am dealing with my own.

The past year has been one of setbacks and loss with a number of personal friends, running friends and otherwise. The same is true amongst the blogging community where some fellow writers are fighting physical battles to maintain their health.

The points raised in that radio program regarding aging matched my experiences and observations during the year. On a personal level, several of my major races last year were scratched due to injury. That experience gave me an opportunity to spend some time in reflection and to venture into alternative physical activities. I’ve come back from that injury and continue to work back to my previous level of running fitness. I realize the time will come when that comeback isn’t possible.

There are a couple of quotes I think of often. I don’t know their source but they have been with me for a long time.  The first, “We are all temporarily able,” tells us our fall into disability is only a moment, a day, a year away.  I’m appreciating my abilities while I have them and would hope I can learn to live with disabilities with grace when they come to my doorstep.

The second quote most runners have heard or have said: “The day will come when I can not run.  Today is not that day.”  collapseToday was not that day for me. Hope- fully, it will not be the first day of the New Year when I plan to join running friends in the brisk January air.

A Happy New Year to you and may you greet your third age with gusto and good health.


  1. I was walking and injured during my half marathon last year. A woman in her 70’s caught me up and offered me some jelly babies before running on. I was never able to catch her up. Age doesn’t matter. Have a great new year.

  2. Great reflections. I turned 50 this year and even this landmark has made me reflective and appreciative of the health I have. All we ever really have is today, so let’s make the most of it!

  3. Like you, I have experienced many of the things you describe, especially the injuries. However your quote “The day will come that I can not run. Today is not that day.” rings true and I plan to use it daily to help motivate me. Have a better 2014 and look forward to the runs that you will do during it and beyond.

  4. Very good points. As someone who was very athletic and had no known risk factors, yet spent 2013 battling cancer and chemo, everyone is just one diagnosis away from major illness. Life truly can change in the blink of an eye. However, it is possible to come back and run again. And when running is no longer possible, you walk. Or you do yoga, or swim. Or you shuffle to the end of the block and back. I look forward to my Third Age, and will hopefully find a way to always do something physical. Happy New Year!

  5. MaryLou
    As you know from experience it takes a long time to come back after an injury.
    I am still struggling after my knee surgery and after being diagnosed this year with asthma I will still not give up. My “third age” has been a challenge thus far but I am determined to keep running and cross training as long as I can. Happy Healthy New Year!
    Your running bud

  6. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post. I’m also finding that it takes longer to recover from injury (hamstring and quad pulls this year) as I get older. I still plan on running as long as I can, but am also looking at other forms of exercise and sport going forward. Hope you have a Happy and Healthy 2014!

    • A Happy and active 2014 to you as well. Running will always be the first love, but I, like you, have dipped my toe into swimming and have every intention of doing more yoga.

  7. Your post came with perfect timing, and you deal with the same sentiments I do as the years go by. I’ll be joining your age group in July, and though working through my first injury in four years I am looking forward to a healthy and active year. We are fortunate, and I am thankful for every day I can lace up the running shoes. Thank you for a great post. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year, Mary Lou!

  8. An early welcome to the ’60s. Not a bad place to be, although I think we’ve gained the wisdom to do what you have done – address the injury before it is out of hand. A happy, healthy New Year to you as well. Look forward to reading your posts in 2014.

  9. “The first, “We are all temporarily able,” tells us our fall into disability is only a moment, a day, a year away.” Yes, true. Even for the fit individuals today.

    I began my career at rehabilitation medicine hospital exclusively for spinal cord injured adults — paraplegics and quadriplegics. I was in my mid-20’s and was there for only 3 yrs.

    But it is probably the reason why I don’t take my good health for granted. I’ll be turning 55 this yr., my partner, a consummate cyclist also @70 yrs. He already is slowing down a little but last year just like other years did several hundred kms. of cycling on his own with his panniers.

    We really need to cultivate 1-2 non-exercise passions too…for our mental health balance and for mental health insurance long-term.

    I have my art and blogging.

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