Smell My Wisdom!

The other day I was at Zingerman’s Bakehouse loading up on some treats. For those of you unfamiliar with the Zingerman’s family of businesses, I’ll just say they are an Ann Arbor institution, renowned for their high quality and service, with prices to match.

As the counter guy was ringing me up, and I was applying dry ice to my credit card in preparation, he said, “Oh, and today is Monday Madness,” or something like that. “If you’re 60 and over you get 15 percent off.”

Well, I was all too happy to announce I was part of said group. Pride be damned for a discount. “But tell me,” I asked, “what gave it away?”

“I smelled your wisdom,” he said.

Well, with lines like that and 15 percent off, you can see why I have frequented Zingerman’s for nearly forty years.

Later that day, I came across an article in Trail Runner magazine that talked about the aging runner. Like many such articles, it says age-related decline in performance is inevitable, but there are techniques to slow that decline. In fact, depending on your fitness level, you can even see improvements with proper training. Yay gray!

But then the author had to spoil my fun with the following unnecessary nugget: If you find you are faster in your fifties than you were in your thirties, then it’s because you weren’t performing at your peak when you were younger.

Now I’ve had some pretty good efforts out there in my fifties and after, even including some podium finishes. So how much better a runner I could have been if I’d started in my twenties or thirties? There is no answer, because in my thirties I wasn’t a runner, with no intention to be one. I wasn’t ready. Back then I didn’t have the mindset to see running as a fulfilling activity. Without that, I’d have given it up pretty fast.

It took a series of events in my forties to make running a permanent part of my life. A desire to stay fit. Not wanting to ride my bike in the winter. And, perhaps most importantly, developing a new mental self-discipline from my study of Aikido that allowed me to push through the discomfort while I built up my stamina. And even then, I think it was being older, with that many more years of experience and perspective, that moved me beyond the realm of the marathon to discover what I was really capable of.

Could I have done all that thirty years ago? Perhaps. But consider this: my niece Robin is now a dedicated ultrarunner, due in part to the machinations of her evil uncle, and we’re scheduled to run a 50-miler together in September in the Colorado mountains. Not something I could have done thirty years ago, because she hadn’t been born yet. So if it took until now, that’s fine with me, thank you.

Our first ultra together – the 2022 Indian Creek 55K.

One thing will be certain: at the end of it, everyone will definitely be able to smell something coming from me. I’ll tell them it’s my wisdom.


2 thoughts on “Smell My Wisdom!

  1. I’m not sure I agree with that logic. I’ve been running half marathons since I was in my 20’s, consistently putting in the training, etc. yet I ran my fastest half marathon ever when I was just shy of 50. I know someone else who ran her fastest marathon in her late 40’s, even though she had been running marathons since her 20’s. I’m not saying this is typical, but it is possible to continue to get faster decades later.

    1. I’m with you! IMO to run your best requires physical, mental, and emotional fitness to all come together, and they all require training. Muscles are only a small part of running well, as I’m sure you know. To say ‘you could have run faster when you were younger’ is rather a conceit, if you ask me.

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