It’s my birthday in three days. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve marked the anniversary of my birth by claiming “I’m not old; I’ve just been young for a very long time.”
Not this year. Now, for the first time ever, I really do feel old. This very morning, my back was so bad that I had to ask my son to help me put my socks on. Still only 40, and my ten year old son is dressing me (shakes head, and winces at the pain in such a movement). I still made it into work, but I was alternately whimpering or Muttleying, and walking like the Hofmeister bear throughout (an 80’s reference which illustrates my age).
I’ve always fancied myself as the sporty type. I played football, cricket, rugby, hockey and basketball for school or club teams, golf and tennis for fun, and I’ve filled up two shelves with my running medals. But now my body is starting to let me down.
Not only am I at my oldest ever, I’m also at my heaviest; some six pounds in excess of where I was before I embarked on my epic four stone in a year weight loss at age 23. But nearly 41 year old body is not so resilient. Aches and pains are taking their toll: both knees, both ankles, upper and lower back. And the best intentions seem to get the worst results: I try to get fit, injure myself trying, gain weight during my recovery. And then I eventually heal, and try to get fit, but injure myself trying and gain weight during my recovery. It’s a vicious circle.
I still want to run, and funnily enough, I can still usually get it done on race day. But the recovery period is so much longer and more painful than it used to be: notwithstanding a glorious one-off PB in the Bognor Regis 10K, the 2015 London Marathon took such a toll that I’ve still not shaken it off, nearly a year later.
But I still crave it one more time. I refuse to go to the doctors, on the basis that they’ll ban me from running, and that’ll be the end of it. I need to quit on my own terms, have my triumphant last hurrah before my peaceful retirement. I want to do a 10 miler inside 90 minutes, a half marathon inside two hours, and a marathon inside a ponderous five hours. Modest ambitions really, but seemingly very distant right now.
So maybe I should stop accusing my body of letting me down, and look at how I’ve let my body down. I always ran on Heavy Fuel (a Dire Straits namecheck which ages me yet further), but nowadays those junk food binges don’t get burned off so easily. So there it is then; I’m going to start eating healthily. But not this weekend, obviously; it’s my birthday. Nor next weekend, because that’s Easter, or the one after that because we’re on holiday. Nor any time in April for that matter, because of the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion (I loves Monopoly, I do).
But come the first week of May, I’m down with the fitness, just watch me go! Of course, there’s the little matter of the Southampton Half Marathon to cope with in the meantime…