One of the key features of the 80/20 running programmes is that once a week, you get to run at full throttle with a speed session or hill repetitions run. After last week’s hill session, I was telling one of my kids about it. Her response indicated that she questioned the wisdom (and sanity) of ‘older’ runners doing speedwork. Maybe she has a point; I am on blood pressure medication after all. My reckoning is that the whole point of taking the meds is to enable me to train safely and keep fit; the consequences of not training are clear – definitely get fat, definitely lose vascular tone, definite reduction in cardiac muscle, definite reduction in cardiac output, definite increase in pulse rate and clear greater long term risks through increased likelihood of having what doctors drily call an ‘event’. Having been cleared (and encouraged) to run by a doctor last year, the consequences of pushing too hard are hopefully less likely, even if they are no less severe (having an ‘event’).
So, presented with an apparent ‘Catch-22’, what’s an old fart supposed to do? For me, the answer is simple: keep going. For me, running benefits my physical health and my mental health. Having witnessed the decline of elderly parents, there will definitely come a point at which I will lack the motor and/or cognitive function to run; it’s a matter of when, not if. Adopting the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy and putting in the miles and the speed now will hopefully delay the inevitable, meaning that the extra years that I hope to live for, will be years of quality. F*** it – if I’m going to drop dead, better that it is on a run with the sun on my back, the wind in my hair and the sound of birdsong in my ears than bedbound, hooked up to an oxygen cylinder and rubber tubes inserted into various orifices.
I am about to become a grandparent, and the same daughter argued that I should not be running to avoid jeopardising the opportunity to be an active grandparent. Again, when her bump has transitioned to baby and toddler, would she prefer grandad to be the stereotypical inactive coffin-dodger with a questionable taste in knitwear and a penchant for throwing Werther’s originals around, or grandad ‘running shoes’ who is able to set the pace for his grandchild and be a positive role model?
I think part of the problem is this: when I think back to the 1970s, few if any of the adults I knew took any exercise apart from dogwalking or golf. Most of them were smokers, and many of them drank to excess, something that the NHS and today’s taxpayers are picking up the tab for. Skip back another generation or two and most people didn’t make old bones, by the time many people were my age, they were already dead! So it was always regarded as the norm that ‘old people don’t do phys’. This is a stereotype worth breaking, and is a hill that I am literally willing to die on.
Speaking of hills. A slight change in my schedule has meant that I run later in the morning and my usual ‘hill reps’ hill is now overrun with kids walking to school. This prompted me to find a new hill. There is a hill on the other side of town that I remembered as being quite long and steep from driving up it. When I got to that hill and began my planned session, I discovered that it was less steep than I remembered, which reminds me of another life lesson – you might be getting bored with the same routine, but the grass is not always greener on the other side – sometimes the best hill, is the one we are on!