50 not out

I am a runner.

Let me explain. Perhaps I should start from this morning. With sausages. And black and white pudding. With eggs, tea and toast. In bed.

A cooked breakfast in bed? On a Monday morning? What is this sorcery? And gifts! Gifts and cards. That can only mean one thing. Another turn of the wheel. Another year. And the fascination with running clearly shows, because after breakfast, despite the birthday vibes indoors and the cold, gloomy weather that the tail-end of November specialises in, I still threw on a motley selection of running gear for a quick spin around the park.

Though when I say ‘motley’, I did notice that I was wearing this year’s Donadea 50k top; so, one k for every year on the planet. I see what you did there…

And one of my first thoughts at hitting fifty was not so much that I had passed an important milestone, but that rather that this would push me into the next age-graded category at parkrun, thereby improving my stats (and by the way, thanks for the emailed birthday greetings, parkrun!). I really need to get out more.

So yes, running. I seem to have been doing it a lot ever since I was a nipper. It’s not about being good at it either. I suspect I am a better guitar player. And artist and craftsman. But there is something about the simplicity of running that is seductive. In a world of ever-increasing complexity, full of pitfalls and minefields (in the developed world, these are generally metaphors; in the developing world, they are often literal minefields) there is something deliciously democratic and liberating about running. It’s what we are built to do, and for now, it requires little more than a pair of runners and the will to get up off your arse and out the door. Though of course, the world being what it is, many folk run indoors on treadmills. And you are welcome to run in your bare feet too. No doubt somewhere in the world, someone is extolling the virtues of bare-naked running, but I think I’ll skip Googling that if you don’t mind.

So what does turning fifty mean? Bugger all, really. You can view it as a numerological peak that you have scaled which means that the rest of your life is all downhill. Or you could decide that life is one continuous uphill, in which case fifty is nothing more than another brief rest stop on a climb to the summit. Or you could choose to ignore all of that tedious analogy bollocks and just get on with it. Which is pretty much how I approach most things in life.

Next Saturday, Ciaran and I will try and get a decent time at the Waterford Half Marathon. I’m not sure what his PB his, but it’s a few minutes better than my 1.49 and bits. But with the residue of marathon fitness still present in the legs, I may as well have a go at cracking that. And then there’s the end of the year canal run to be considered, and if the legs are still in good shape, I will attempt the marathon option.

Then I am starting to hatch another crazy ultra-marathon plan for the Summer, but I think that should be allowed to simmer in the pot of possible plans, before I scoop it onto the skillet of sizzling certainties. If there’s one thing that fifty times around the sun has taught me, it’s that a little patience can be a good thing at times (that, and an occasional alliterative tic). And to always tax your car when the reminder pops into the mail box. Plus if you think you need to go for a pee before a race, you DEFINITELY need to go for a pee. I suspect Darwin would be a little disappointed that millions of years of evolution hasn’t perhaps pushed the boat out a little further into the sea of boundless wonders. Sorry, Charles.

I had a nice long soak in the bath on Saturday after a nippy 10k, prior to going to friends for a Thanksgiving dinner. I took my Sauconys into the bath with me to give them a nice rub to get all that park mud off them.

I am a runner. That’s how we roll.

And Holly is not in the least bit bothered by all the birthday shenanigans. She didn’t even get me a card. That’s payback for all the missed walks…

Finally, many thanks to my wonderful and crazy family for putting up with me for so long. It’s bad enough that they’ve had to stumble over my guitar collection for years, but they have to contend with various pairs of runners in various stages of decrepitude as well, occupying many corners of many rooms, not to mention dark and damp piles of running gear that only the very brave or foolish would consider picking up and chucking into the washing machine.

I have tried to be a good husband, father and son (though I guess that should read the other way around for me), though I could probably do with several batches of fifties to get it right. Not that an arbiter of goodness in these matters exists. You just have to do your best and hope it’s good enough. And sometimes, it is.

Happy birthday world, all 4.5 billion years at the last count. It’s been an honour to share fifty with you.

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