Early Sunday morning, halfway through the long Memorial Day weekend, on the Feast of Pentecost (for those of us who tap our rhythms to beat of the liturgical seasons), a group of over-forty guys (along with a few other good masochists from our running club who don’t fit that demographic) gathered in various states of holiday-weekend recuperation, sleep deprivation and aftermath of the general indulgence that for some accompanies a Saturday night Red Sox walkoff win at Fenway.
The short term goal? Run up gruelingly steep hills, including the full ski slope, at the Derryfield Cross Country Course in Manchester. Then run up them again. And again. Do push ups at the top before you can catch your breath. Weep a little bit. Then run the trails fast. Then hills again. And again. And again. And again. Oh yeah, and again.
The long term goal? Arrive at the starting line at Cannon Mountain this fall ready to run fast all the way to Hampton Beach. Faster than last year, when we lost the men’s supermasters’ division of the race by 20 seconds. Faster than 20 seconds faster. Fast enough to make having gotten up early and grinding out these workouts worthwhile. And if that seems like recursive logic, well it is, and it makes sense, at least to me. Speaking for myself, I train to run fast enough to make the training feel worthwhile to run fast enough to make the training feel worthwhile, on down the road. Besides that? Well, the company is good – you couldn’t ask for a better bunch of folks to get out and run up hills with.
After last fall’s race I wrote this:
It’s not the 20 seconds that really counted at the end of it all. It’s not why I ran or why I think any of these guys ran. Sure, we wanted to win, but when you get down to the guts of it … we wanted to chase, to hunt, to be hunted, to hurt, to sacrifice, to strive — not just against the intellectual and emotional mountains that 21st century man climbs every day as he makes his living in front of a screen, at a desk, in an office somewhere as he struggles to be a good steward of the gifts he’s been given, his family, his business, his community — but with muscle and sinew and bone against the very substance of the earth itself. It is an ancient, primordial striving that is, well, the guts of it – and at the same time entirely, wonderfully distinct from the intellectual duties and obligations that mean the difference between success and disaster in “real life.”
Reading it back today, I still like it well enough (though it seems a bit melodramatic here on Memorial Day Weekend, when we’re honoring men and women who’s sacrifice, striving and nobility is infinitely more serious than running races). I think it makes for a decent way to open what I hope will be a great training season’s worth of blog posts.
So here’s to Memorial Day Weekend, to all who’ve sacrificed and striven for their countries. Here’s to family and friends, to colleagues and company on the long run, and to the start of a new training season. Oh, and of course to the other teams of over-40 men who are running in the supermaster’s division this September. We look forward to seeing you there and wish you an injury free, highly productive training season and would have you arrive at the starting line as fast as you’ve ever been ready to run. After all, as the proverb says, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” Let’s run.