Back in my mid-thirties, I ran a half-marathon. I did it with the arrogance of youth and occasional two-mile training runs. I finished the 13.1 miles in non-record time, and the next day I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed. Within a week, my toenails had turned black and fallen off.
I learned a few lessons from that experience:
▪ Occasional two-mile runs are not a good preparation for a half-marathon.
▪ If you are going to run a half-marathon, your running shoes should fit.
▪ A completion T-shirt does not make up for two days of missed work and a month of aching knees (not to mention ugly toes).
Thirty-some years later, my husband announced that for his 70th birthday in March 2017, he planned to run a 5K race. In the spirit of marital support, I said I would join him. I had nearly a year to prepare.
The first thing I did was buy a pair of running shoes that fit. The second thing I did was go to the internet to find out how to train for the race.
I found a great program that claimed I could go from sedentary to running five kilometers (3.1 miles) in 12 weeks. The training was simple, starting with a brisk walk followed by a short jog followed by a brisk walk. Each week the jogging got longer and the walking shorter.
I started in mid-June. Two weeks later, I could hardly move — knees, hips, ankles and even my teeth hurt. It occurred to me that the developers of the training created it for the thirty-somethings, not the Medicare generation.
Nevertheless, with some family coaching, I persisted. By the time Donald Trump was elected, I had finally made it to week three of the 12-week program.
Meanwhile, my spouse left me in the dust. He was running close to five kilometers while I was still trying to figure out how Trump got elected and why it was so hard to jog to the end of the block.
In February, my spouse tripped on one of the notoriously bad Tacoma sidewalks and fell. He came home with blood dripping down his face, his glasses in four pieces and a knee missing much of its skin.
Being the good hospice nurse, I recommended that if he saw a bright light not to go towards it. Then I Googled first aid for bumps on the head and found that packages of frozen peas make a fine ice pack. He survived to once again leave me in the dust.
In February, we had downpours of both presidential executive orders and rain. I reverted to my old half-marathon training except that instead of running an occasional two miles, I ran an occasional two blocks.
By March, when I should have been well beyond week 12 of the training, I was still on week three. Since I had already signed up for a charity 5K, I considered collecting the T-shirt and claiming I’d run it. But my upbringing didn’t include alternative facts.
So I took on the five-kilometer Mercer Island race. I expected that the excitement and energy would sustain me. What I didn’t plan for were the hills. The sustaining lasted long enough to get me up the first hill. My husband passed me on the second hill and left me with enough alone time to contemplate the arrogance of old age.
When I finally reached the finish line, a 10-year-old girl whizzed by looking ready for her next 5K. That’s when I knew that contrary to what some people might believe, 67 is not the new 40.
However, because I started at the beginning and finished at the end, I came in third in my age category (a very small group.) I earned my T-shirt, contributed to a worthy cause and kept all of my toenails.
Now I’m thinking when I reach 70, I should go bigly and run a half-marathon. Maybe I could come in first (in the elderly and above category). One can always dream.
Linda Norlander of Tacoma is a writer and a retired nurse who worked for many years to improve end-of-life care. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org