I took the plunge. No, I didn’t get married — that probably would be less daunting than what I just signed up for and reserved rooms for. My commitment for the next two weeks is exclusively to the masters’ national cross country championships held in Bend, Oregon on Dec. 14.
Granted, this may be one of the more outlandish things I have done in a while, but cross country is where my roots are. This is where I finally became an “athlete” (yes, I use that term loosely) back in 1973 — 40 years ago.
Yeah, I was one of those little shavers who got the wild idea that I was going to become the next Steve Prefontaine, the brash young runner from Oregon who, at the young age of 21, somehow pulled off a gutsy fourth-place finish at the Munich Olympic Games in the 5,000 meters.
So, here I am, an aging 50-plus year-old desperately trying to hold on to some of my youth. My wife occasionally shows just a twinge of pleasure in calling it my “mid-life crisis.” I prefer to see it as my “mid-life resurgence.”
I’m finally able to have the time to do some of those healthy things I postponed for the years when my kids needed me around. Now, not only do they not need me around, they really don’t want me around. And so I am signed up to take the Club Northwest team bus down to the eastern side of Oregon in a couple of weeks to compete against the best masters runners in the United States. If that all sounds like it has seeds of a “mid-life crisis,” so be it.
Of course, I use the term “compete” fairly loosely as well, since this comes on the heels of my getting creamed by all of the legitimate masters runners in the Seattle area just a couple of weeks ago. I did beat a few guys who have seen about 20 more years than me, but, for the most part, I really sucked in that race.
So, why would I submit myself to this potentially humiliating encore? Because I still can. Because I am drawn to it like a moth to the thrill of the firelight. And because I will hang out with some great people who have an outlook on life that I want.
These people are living purposefully. And they are playing, in their own way. These people have found a way to balance their long distance running and still have their professional and personal lives. That is appealing to me.
Hopefully I’ll learn some things about balance at this gathering. Hopefully I’ll have some roommate who will give me sage advice on achieving more than I ever thought possible as I slide further into my 50s.
And hopefully, I’ll be injury-free two weeks from now.
If nothing else, that six-and-a-half hour bus ride with 35 other masters runners should be entertaining.