I have a lot of mileage on my legs. They’ve carried me through countless miles of training and racing, first as a runner, then as a cyclist, now as a triathlete.
My running career officially started in 1970, the year I went out for middle school track and ran the half-mile in meets. My times were decent, but not great. That describes most of my athletic career.
Still, there were moments of relative greatness over years of competition. My talents would not turn out to be world-class, but I can’t complain when I look back and realize how unique it is to win a race, much less many races. My legs deserve credit for much of that.
I was never all that happy with the appearance of my legs. In high school, they just looked skinny. By college, they took on a utilitarian flair. After college, I learned that some women actually like lean characters with muscular, thin legs. For that, I am thankful too.
Cycling came into my life sometime in the early 2000s. Summers of long, hard rides actually built new muscle where none had been before. Then I shaved my legs as cycling tradition demands and in many ways that felt transcendent. Freed of hairy constraints and perceptions of what constituted manhood and what did not, I learned to love not only what my legs could do, but how they actually looked. Ironically, as fashions in men’s shorts have gone, we now show less of our legs than forty years ago.
As age advances I see changes occurring in the structure and surface of my legs. The skin on my thighs has aged in comparison to five years ago. I apply sunscreen more often, but the damage from years of sun exposure is already done.
Even the muscles that typically popped out after two months of riding longer no longer bulge so quickly. Short of pumping testosterone pills I don’t know that anything would alter these changes in my body. I’ll have to learn to love what I’ve got, and keep working to maintain everything. That’s a lifelong adventure no matter how young or old you may be. But in every case, the legs have it.