Last November, as we were vacationing in one of our favorite cities, San Francisco, Mike began us on a life-changing journey with this simple statement: “Next June I want to get all Gold, especially in running.” Now this may not make sense to you, and it didn’t to me either. It was just that, out of the blue, and I had no idea what he was talking about. Had he competed in the Olympics before and did he have his sights set on them again? I knew that wasn’t true, and besides the summer Olympics had just passed us by and wouldn’t be returning until 2014. What I do know to be true is as Mike has been approaching his AARP membership age (just 3 years off at the time of that particular non sequiter) he has begun starting conversations in the middle or the end, forgetting the beginning or any logical context or set-up, and then looks at me in bewilderment that I am not following when I ask, “What the heck are you talking about now, old man?”
So after he realized he’d not included me in his entire thought process, he explained how, when he was scheduled to take his department’s biannual physical fitness test, his goal was to achieve “gold standard” (out of a “gold/silver/bronze/fail continuum)” in each element of the test (bench press, vertical jump, sit-ups, and running). He knew he could do well in three of the four categories, but running was going to be his nemesis. He hates running – always has, really – and once he graduated the academy saw little reason for it unless pursued by an angry mob, zombies, or hungry fanged animals. We’ve both always made fun of runners when we’d see them out in the rain, snow, freezing wind, and in brutal heat. They seemed crazy to us but, secretly, I’ve always envied them and wished I was a runner. I admired their discipline and dedication. I liked that the outdoors was their gym instead of my elliptical machine where I stared at a wall or a TV screen. I wanted what runners had, but I was afraid… very, very afraid.
So I began asking Mike some questions to help him better define his goal. I began by asking him, “How are you going to train to make the gold standard in running,” to which he replied, “I’m just going to go out and run.” Now, for some, that might be a good plan, but he has not really run since his days in the academy 16 ½ years ago. At 47, one does not just go out and run. It’s going to hurt and it’s going to be hard to keep going. Frustration will set in quickly because the mind will think you should be better than you are. When the reality of just how much digression has occurred over the years, the goal will look too large to conquer.
Then I inquired, “What shoes are you planning on wearing?” and he indicated the $25 Costco specials I had gotten him over 2 years ago would do just fine! Mike can be a brilliant person and he is who I respect the most in regards to intelligence, but as we get older we often rely on what we used to do instead of what may be better and more current. Mike would have never questioned his shoe choice; in his days as an athlete they did everything in their canvas Chuck Taylor high-top’s and if they were good enough then, well by golly.... Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but athletic footwear has come a long way from just a few short years ago. Mike’s plan would have yielded endless shin splints, aches & pains, plus all the frustration from not accomplishing his goal fast enough. I know him, and he would have pushed himself too hard, tried to run too fast, and done it all too quickly for his body. Sad to say, but the two-a-day football practices in the sweltering August heat he once did with pleasure would be good for a trip to the E.R. His body has changed.