Monday 18 November 2013

Call it play, or call it a day....

Fun and frolic......Munro-bagging in Glencoe
      I had to laugh on Sunday. After a week when I'd really felt the weight of my 81 years and struggled to maintain any momentum in my running, our Circuit Superintendent, Rev'd Richard Atkinson, based his message on an amusing text from Malachi that had me snorting an audible "Huh".  'You will go out and frolic like well-fed calves' he repeated several times, as preachers and public speakers do to emphasise a salient point. Oh yeah, me? At my time of life? And I bet I wasn't the only one thinking that. All but one of the congregation was over 60 and three of us are in our eighties. 
      Admittedly, when it comes to running, I've always tried to look upon it as fun and frolic, disregarding most of that serious scientific stuff that's become part and parcel of the modern movement, where every step is timed and every run fed into the computer for analysis. Regrettably, I've been drawn into much of that stuff too and quite a few running days end with me sat by a computer recording the bare bones of what I've done, then fleshing it up for a half decent blog posting.
      In early years I'd a simple Seiko stopwatch; no metronome, no apps to tell me when to walk and when
on this year's Eiger Trail run.....
to run, no beeps to warn me if I was a fraction off pace, no virtual partner, no horrible music jangling in my lug 'oles, nor even a computer to store all the data. Each run was roughly recorded in one line of an A6 notebook - the first of which lasted for seven years. The majority of entries were simply logged as 'X-Country' because that's always where I preferred to run, communing with nature in wide open spaces, over moors and mountains - far from the madding crowd. 
      I wasn't exactly 'frolicking like a well-fed calf' in those early days, but running became the most exciting thing I'd ever done and dearly wished I'd discovered it long before my mid fifties. Ticking off Scottish Munros, jogging long, high level routes in the Cairngorms, testing our studs over the Great Lochaber Traverse, hurtling down the snow fields from Ben Nevis or running the heathery hills of home was never anything else but play. It was also excellent training for races of all lengths and types I chose to run. New PB's, course records, championship wins, creeping into national and world rankings were all complementary by-products of the wonderful game I was playing.  It really was all play. And I didn't need a Garmin to gauge how much I was enjoying it.

beach running from a wild camp in the Hebrides....
     Things have got more serious in my dotage, I've become more self critical and running times have suffered because of it. Hours before Rev Richard released us from his 20 minute diatribe and sent us out rejoicing, I'd been in Skipton squelching my way round Aireville Park in one of those nationwide 5k Park Runs. Far from frolicking like a well-fed calf I lumbered round like a knackered old bull put out to grass in a very squidgy field. For the life in me, I couldn't get out of 2nd gear. Each of four circuits began with an 85ft climb, three of them on a narrow, muddy woodland path that sapped so much strength from my old legs that I couldn't get going on the down bits. There weren't any flat bits. I reckon the soles of my shoes were an inch thicker when I crossed the Finish line due to all the mud caked on them. I finished 55th (of 83) in the lamentable time of 30.59. Even more sickening was my age grading of 69.55%, perhaps the lowest I've recorded over any distance in the last 20 years.

      So what to do now?  Maybe another visit to my favourite Isle of Iona to bathe high tops in the Canary islands. It was all play.
in its wonderful 'Well of Eternal Youth' again? A Super Vitamin? Or the latest go-faster drug to add to all the other medication I swallow to keep me alive and kicking. One thing's for sure, I'm not done yet and Aireville Park will soon be receiving another visit from Old Runningfox to hopefully erase the nasty memories of that first one. Well-fed frolicking calves indeed. I'll do my best Richard. Honest. But if ever it comes to that story of Abraham getting his wife pregnant when he was 99 years old, just go and preach it somewhere else!


  1. Hehe, really enjoyed that ;) .

  2. Hi Runningfox! I just commented on another person's blog (who had put up "motivational videos") that fun must be the number one priority. There is no way I can imagine to go to the gym for nearly 7 years in a row now without it being all about the fun. Goals were cool for the first few years, but now I'm really fairly desensitized to goals. They don't have the same lure or pull, after many years of them. But having fun never gets old. I meet new people and hear new stories at the gym--which never ceases to be fun. And I've made it part of my life to help others gain skills in fitness, like teaching people how to bench press. This keeps me sparked. Same with eating healthy--that must be happy and fun too.

    As always, I love your stories and photos. You've got to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world--over there in Scotland. :D

    1. Hi Marion. Before I began running I used to love going to the gym, a quiet, low key one called the Olympus, where everyone knew each other, and where things got quite competitive at times. Yes, it was fun challenging the instructors.
      It closed and the one I go to now is too big, too sweaty, plays loud music, is so impersonal, has too many posers hogging the equipment - and not to mention (usually) obese people spending far too much time strolling around on the treadmills. I use it when the weather gets really bad, spend an hour or so going through my routine, then get to heck out of it. I'm afraid the fun went out of it for me when the Olympus closed down. More's the pity.....