Having kept running logs quite a few years I know about how much I’ve run in training and competition. Being careful not to exaggerate, but based on real figures from journals, my running mileage from ages 14 through 30, or peak competitive years, totaled 36,600 miles. That’s an average of about 2150 miles per year or 41 miles per week, or about 6 miles per day, on the nose.
By age 30 I tapered serious training and began running for health and fitness. Still, I covered about 10,000 miles from age 31-40. That’s approximately 1,111 miles per year, or 21 miles a week or 3 miles a day.
In the years since I turned 40 I’ve run less, but perhaps enjoyed each run more than ever. I estimate my mileage to total between 5000-8000 miles in those years, giving me a total lifetime running mileage of between 51,000 to 54,000 miles.
That’s not high by many standards. The most miles I ran in one week was exactly 100. And there have been weeks during injury, illness or schedule conflicts where I did not run at all. But pretty much I’ve kept trucking all these years. In all those years I never stayed overnight in the hospital once until this past week with the broken collarbone. The physicians and nurses ran down their checklists over and over again and pronounced, “You’re a pretty healthy guy.”
My blood pressure is 110/73 and my pulse rate runs between 55-65 on average. According to MetLife insuracne standards my basal health indicators place me in the Top 2% of all Americans my age. So the running has been worth it in many respects.
Keeping yourself up is easy. Keeping up with yourself is much tougher.
I can still run a 21:00 3-mile without that much struggle, and did so last summer in an All-Comers cross country meet, and also on my own this year on a timed section of bike trail. My personal record at that distance is 14:17, accomplished during a 5000M track race at 14:45. So my raw speed and ability have diminished with age.
Speed is not my worry these days, because frankly it’s not that fun to run a race and finish with a time 5 or 10 minutes slower than your PR. That’s not really a thrill to me. Nor is winning age groups. That has never satisfied any of my competitive instincts. When I raced, I raced to win. When that priority moved to the background, my training priorities changed too. Running helps maintain an ideal weight of between 165 and 170lbs at 6 foot 1 inches. Running also fulfills a longstanding need to get out and think, helping me deal with stress and anxiety in life, and get grounded in my thoughts and objectives. I’ve always considered running a form of “moving meditation.”
As a writer and creative director I have had many moments of inspired thinking and problem solving occur on the road. The race home to get those thoughts down can be as interesting as any competitive 10K. Have you ever had a race to remember your own creative thoughts? It’s quite a challenge. But when the creative solution works, as it has many times in my career, you are grateful to have that portal to constructive thoughts.
Practical and Impractical Maintenance
I’ve had to do a lot of work to keep on running. In my mid-40s I took up competitive soccer and tore an ACL. To fix it, I had surgery and rehabbed the knee, which took about a year. Then I got back to soccer, and to running, but one mile at a time.
For a guy in his mid-40s I could still run with the young kids, but putting on the brakes got tougher as did handling the jostling and knocks of soccer. The repaired ACL finally gave way again 2 years later when another player slid into my knee from the side. I remember crying the whole way home, like I’d lost a relative, knowing that my career in ballistic sports was really over. The old Chris Cudworth was gone. Grief and tears. Boo hoo. You’ve got to move one.
But running has proven possible through continued physical therapy. Weights and strength work keep the knee stable. So on I go.
Cycling comes into the picture
8 years ago I took up cycling when my brother-in-law gave me a red Trek 400 steel frame bike. I fixed up that machine the best I could but still could not keep up on the group rides. So 2 years later the Felt 4C (“The Red Rocket) came into my life and it has been a joy learning to ride, compete and join the group rides a couple times a week. I’ve raced criteriums too. Nuts, but fun.
I also own a Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike to ride all winter. Cold weather riding is a great way to get over the indoor blues.
In 8 years of riding I’ve averaged around 2500 miles per year, with the highest annual mileage topping 4000 miles. So I’ve ridden around 18-20,000 miles already and expect to keep riding at about that pace for the next 10 years at least. I see plenty of riders in their 60s who can kick my ass on group rides. That is both motivating and inspiring. So why not keep rolling?
There will come a day, probably 5-10 years from now, when my cycling mileage officially passes up my lifetime running mileage. It is like a tortoise and hare race against myself, as my running mileage wanes slightly the bike catches up.
But if it all adds up to running and riding equality in the end I’ll have covered 100,000 miles on foot and on bike in my lifetime.
And that’s cool, because I really don’t know if I’ll ever travel overseas before World War III takes half the world out. But I’ll have seen a lot and done a lot running and riding circles around my own spinning brain. It’s been fun. It will be fun. And it’s fun to think about what is yet to come. First I have to get back on the bike following the collarbone rehabilitation. But I’ve had a few injuries and know that it just takes time. And God’s will sometimes.
Laughing about the struggles
Our college cross country coach used to say this about the joys and difficulties of running, “Ah, Boys…You can’t beat fun.”
To which we’d all mutter under our breath, headed out to a tough workout; “Yeah, you can’t beat fun. It’s like a sore dick.”
There’s more truth in that joke than you might think. The effort and pain of training can sure wear you out and make you sore. But for some reason you always come back for another day. It seems some of us just can’t help ourselves. So we keep on going. Sore or not.