Coming of (another) age
Exploring how age is merely a number
I turn 27 years old today, the day this column comes out, also known as Thursday, June 1. It feels a bit soon, to be honest, being 27. I’ve witnessed 324 months, or 9,855 days, thus far in my life. I suppose some people are rolling their eyes as they read this, thinking how silly it sounds that I’m making a fuss over entering my late 20s, when that is actually still very young. But, as far as I know, this is the oldest I’ve ever been, and that in itself is monumental, even if it’s just for me.
I can’t speak of other generations, but for millennials, I think most of us experienced an extreme pressure to get things figured out in our early 20s. Sure, we were told we could do anything, but that meant we had to do something, and it started the moment you found out what that something was. We were taught to hurry, take every opportunity, charge full steam ahead and get up immediately if we’re knocked down. We spend so much time focusing on how to make our 20s the best, most fruitful days of our lives that when they start to dwindle away, we get confused, feeling like there’s so much more to accomplish before the big 3-0 comes around. But, what we are often not told is that getting older and not having everything figured out is OK. In fact, that’s part of the fun.
One of the many things I assumed I would have figured out in my life by now was my fitness regimen. From a young age, I’ve loved to run, particularly in races. Starting in high school, I was entirely gung-ho for anything and everything that involved moving my feet at a speed over 5 miles per hour. I read every book about running I could get my hands on, wrote as much as I could on the topic and set personal mileage goals on the daily. I followed my dreams, hoping that, by my mid- to late 20s, I would have at least a few marathons under my belt. But injuries, more appealing adventures and general lethargic tendencies have kept me from finishing anything longer than a 16-mile trail run to date. My lack of success in this area only adds to the sting of my increasing age, as if my time is running out to accomplish my marathon goals. As if, soon, I will be far too old to run any distance, let alone a 26.2 mile trek.
So, amidst aging anxieties, I decided to jumpstart my enthusiasm for running again by participating in the Bolder Boulder with my race buddy/cousin this Memorial Day. We haven’t run this 10K since 2013. At that time, my young and spright body was running all the time, and the 6-mile jaunt through Boulder was a piece of cake.
Each year, the scene at the Bolder Boulder is highly energized and celebratory. That’s why it’s known around the country to be one of the best 10Ks – from the runners to the spectators to the race organizers and volunteers, everyone is positively gleeful to be there. For a runner, there’s rarely a dull second on the course. Local bands are spread out along the sidelines, and there are scores of loud house parties happening on every neighborhood block.
On Monday, I started the 6 mile race off with a bit of a struggle. I felt hot, sore and generally irritated by my movements. As my steps increased I couldn’t help but curse my age. “If only you still had that 22-year-old body. If only you were as fit as you were in your early 20s,” were comments I kept saying to myself. But, as I started putting kilometers behind me, a familiar ebb and flow took hold. I stopped focusing so much on what I lacked and looked around me, checking out my fellow running mates. Every age possible was out enjoying the sunny race day. There was an older couple with canes who had their arms linked, walking the race slowly together. There were high school kids sporting their track team shirts. There were even young children who couldn’t have been older than 3 who were keeping up a steady pace. Amidst the variety of ages, my looming birthday didn’t feel all that bad. Turning 27 is just a part of the game, it doesn’t change any of my goals or ambitions, it doesn’t put me on a lower level than anyone else, it just is.
The miles to the finish line continued to lower. Along the way there were slip-and-slides and water guns to indulge in. Spectators were offering beers and even a keg stand competition. That one I chose to skip. Even if age is just a number, I still can’t guzzle down a portion of a keg like I could in college.
As I completed mile 6 and headed into Folsom Field on the CU Boulder campus, the thought of my old age had left my mind. All I could think about was that finish line and how freeing it felt to lunge forward toward it. My jog graduated to an all-out sprint. Not my overall time or the amount of beer I had in me (oddly enough I had none), it all came together in one final leap across the finish line. I cheered, high-fiving my cousin. We had finished the Bolder Boulder, along with thousands of others. And the beauty of it was that age has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Barbara Platts has not signed up for a marathon yet, but she will…at least before she hits 30! Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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