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Age shall not wither her…

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…or him for that matter, but let us not in gender waters be drowned, for thou art set upon a course of time and distraction of sex shall be banished from all thoughts…for a little while at any rate.

Youth is celebrated far and wide and grey hairs hidden in this 21st century dystopia we call the West.  This is particularly true in sporting endeavour, where a footballer is called old in his 30s and tennis players retire in their 20s.  But running is rare amongst sports because you can genuinely improve as you age (some might say like a fine wine, but I might say like a fruit cake).  I took up running 10 years ago and even now can achieve times better than when I was younger.  Furthermore, the wonders of WAVA age-graded scoring mean I can not only beat my younger self even when I am ostensibly slower, but more importantly for my increasingly-irrelevant ego, I can beat those half my age.  For the WAVA rating, by telling me that my time was 65.3%, when the youngster who finished ahead of me was 59.0%, is basically saying I tried harder, 6.3% harder than he did, and he needs to pull his finger out and make an effort, just like me.  That said, the 67 year old haring past me has me well and truly beat on all counts, except that I’ve got more hair (although that is probably slowing me down, so I could beat him if only I reduced my drag co-efficient and sported a shiny pate).  This sort of petty point-scoring is what keeps runners so competitive (winning even when they’re losing, and also losing sometimes when they’re winning) and, let’s be honest, so boring.  Like Clarkson, but with less denim.

In my running club some of the most respected and celebrated runners are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.  Members in their 20s and 30s are expected to be fast, so respect is tempered, but older runners are expected to be, well, old, so when they defy their chronology, we are in awe.  Not that anyone is in awe of me, but that’s probably because they think I’m young, what with still having all my hair (did I mention that already?).

“…nor custom stale her infinite variety” is the concluding part of the quotation and to stretch my Shakespearean muse yet further (that crack you will hear shortly is the sound of an analogy snapping), this is true of running too.  Even when we repeat a route or a race, it is always different and I may never tire of the endless variety that comes from running, because each time I step out I am, if nothing else, changed by time.  So despite its relentless forward march that adds  further minutes and seconds to my 10K best, I can take comfort in the knowledge that my age-grading does not diminish…just like my hairline.

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