In 2009, I turned 40 years old. In 2009, I ran my first organized 5K. This is what is called a positive correlation. The older I get, the more I need to run. During this first frigid affair, I ran with a friend, who at 24, was also running his first 5K. He crossed the finish line about 2 minutes ahead of me. I was pleased.
After the race, the race winners were announced. My friend took home a third place medal in his age group, whereas I finished 7th in my age group. He gloated a bit, having reached the podium on his first try, but I was content to check how I fared against the rest of my peers. It turns out I crossed the line ahead of 8 others my age, and I felt good. It fed the little competitive demon inside of me. My friend saw me, and followed suit. It turns out he managed to finish third in a group of three. It took a little of the wind out of his sails, but my point is not to deflate my friend’s accomplishments.
When you read results for local 5K races, you see a bulge in the 40-50+ brackets (in numbers, not waistbands). I know personally that I am inspired to remain healthy, and I can only guess that many of my peers share this sentiment. Some of us may be ultra competitive, but most of us just use these races as a kick-in-the-running-shorts to get us out running.
During my last large-group 5K, I met a guy who was a couple of years older than me. We were both hovering near the back of the pack, waiting for the race to start, while throngs of runners bunched up in front of us. We got to talking, and after making some jokes about starting near the rear, he chimed in:
“I love starting at the back. No one passes me, and I get to pass all of the runners who start off hot and fade quickly.”
I liked his thinking. I tried it. It worked. We both started at our slow but steady pace, ignoring the mob ahead of us, until one-by-one, we started to pass runners. It was great. We managed to squeeze by hundreds of panting, breathless sprinters, stuffing our egos and giving us that little bit of competition we needed to push us forward. Sure, some young fellow with tattoos and not an ounce of body fat won, but we had a great time.
In the end, we tailored the race to fit us. We ran our own race. Running a 5K for me is about pushing myself to be healthier and happier. It is not about breaking records, winning medals or fighting for bragging rights. It is about seeing how my evening jogs pay off. Most of the time, the cheap watch on my wrist confirms my success. And that is what it is all about. Let the young guys fight it out, I am just here to have fun.
About Ken Storen
Ken is the proudest father of the greatest little 7 year old on the planet. In order to keep up with her infinite energy, he likes to take long, slow jogs. It is the only way he can remain in shape to play hour after hour of ”Catch the Cheetah”. He also did and does a lot of other stuff.