We got up to swim this morning at 4:45. Drove through the mist to Marmion Academy and the warm confines of the natatorium. Did our swim workouts broken up into little sections like a watery breakfast of freestyle, pulls and intervals. I was definitely the fastest swimmer in the half a lane I shared with no one else.
Then we headed back home to get ready for work. Some days I drive Sue to the train, and we’re still figuring out the reasonable amount of time to allow with all the lights and still cover the distance from our new home to the train. This morning there were a few drivers poking along at various stages of our trip. They may or may not have been old people, but they were all going almost aggressively slow. And after I dropped Sue off to the train a song by John Hiatt came on the radio. The lyrics cracked me up.
Old people on the hill
They don’t have too much time
Cut a head on the buffet line
Got back for a dollar and 50
Then I argue with the …girl
They lived so much behind them
They try to slow down this god damn world
Old people are pushing and they aren’t mushy
Old people are pushing cause life ain’t cushy
Old people are pushing
They drag what they don’t want drag
And go as slow as they want to
They don’t care who stays alive
And they’ll kiss that grand baby
All around the back and back front
They don’t care what you think of them
That baby has got something that they want
Old people are pushing
Cause life ain’t cushy
Sue was telling me to chill out while driving behind some of these aggressively slow vehicles on the road. You know the type. The speed limit is 30 so they go 27. And if you get up on their bumper, they go 25. And if that doesn’t work, they slow down to 20 and give you that glance in the mirror that says Fuck. Off.
I get that. Tailgaters are a pain in the ass, almost literally. When I’m the supposedly slow driver on the road, I look in the mirror and say Fuck You to the person doing the tailgaiting. It’s the American thing to do. Say Fuck You.
Back and forth it goes in life. Sometimes you’re the slow one. Sometimes you’re the fast one. We all seem to be in a hurry for one reason or another.
Speaking of slow and fast. I had to laugh at the start of this weekend’s half marathon. I was one of the slow ones compared to the people at the front. I knew my 8:10 pace would carry me along okay. It’s now difficult to conceive those days when I’d do a half marathon at 5:20 pace. I never won a race at that distance, but came close. Having run a dozen or so times at the half marathon distance with times in the 1:10-1:12 bracket, I’d have at least placed in the top five this weekend. Here were the results.
It was a hilly course, but I well remember a race in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that was three times as hilly. I finished fifth at the 10-mile distance at 54:00 flat. But those days are gone, and I’m not a surly old bastard about it. These days the leaders peel away from the start and there is no dream of keeping up with them. I’m happy to cruise along at my pace, sad that I cannot go back in time somehow and pull those faster times right out of my cosmic ass, because that was always fun. It really was fun to kick ass when I could do it. But getting my ass kicked by runners even better than me was fun too. It’s all part of the deal.
Perhaps those of us who were blessed (or obsessed) with our sub-elite running careers were delusional in some respects. What does it really matter that any of us ran times that were faster then than we can run now? It mattered in some respects because we showed others that it could be done. I recall talking with other runners after races were complete. People were eager to hear how it went. When did the breaks occur? How did you feel? Was it fun to win?
Of course, it was. But that can’t last forever. And so, there’s a social responsibility of sorts to share whatever experiences we do have. That’s why I have written this blog the last three years. Trying to open people’s eyes to other thoughts and possibilities is both a challenge and a reward.
It probably doesn’t mean all that much that I once was able to win races. The real measure of a person is the character they show when they don’t win in life.
Perhaps it’s more important that one can accept the humility of being a middle-of-the-packer than it ever was to win races in the first place. Most of us never see the winners anyway. They wrap themselves in Mylar or warm down before we ever even cross the finish line. They might show up to claim their bling if they make the podium. But only half (or less) of the participants in any given event ever stick around to see who won. Social media is the new post-race ceremony, replete with pictures and finish medals and the like. Sure, it’s a bit self-aggrandizing, but it’s how society has evolved to address the recognition we all crave.
Ultimately, however, we all go back to more mundane tasks like following some slower driver on the road, or being tailgaited ourselves if someone thinks we’re the slow one. Going aggressively slow is a statement unto itself. There might be no better allegory for the state of politics in America right now.