Having recently started work as a staffer at Dick Pond Athletics in St. Charles, Illinois, I’ve had cause to engage in consideration of my running career. The Dick Pond group of stores is celebrating 50 years of running, a fact that parallels my own career. Working a few retail hours per week has given me the opportunity to encounter all kinds of runners; elite and beginners, joggers and walkers, serious trainers and people just trying to stay fit.
My friend and the main proprietor of the St. Charles store, Glen Kamps, has worked at Dick Pond for just as many years. His appearance with the Dick Pond shoe truck at the local Turkey Trot in Batavia this week is one of the thousands he has done over the years. There is no one more dedicated to the sport of running than Glen.
We started doing some running together over the past year as he prepared for a half marathon race, in which he set a recent personal best time. He also won his age group at the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10k with a 7:41 pace per mile.
But while we talk about racing during our training runs, we also discuss the sport of running as a whole. Glen keeps track of his “numbers,” things like resting heartbeat, cholesterol, and other life vitals. His sincere wish is that more people would take those numbers seriously. His main mission is to help people figure out the best path to personal wellness. He’s in a unique position to do so as manager of the Dick Pond store, but it’s still hard to reach some of the people that most need to hear that message.
Going into my own half marathon this weekend, I knew my fitness state pretty well. My resting heart rate is 47, a healthy sign. I manage my cholesterol with a statin thanks to a long family history of heart disease, and my doctor and I work together to keep that in good shape. My blood pressure is typically in the 115/78 region, and my body fat…well, that does need work. I have a bit of an unhealthy paunch, nothing huge, around the waist.
Part of the challenge for athletes over the age of 50 is wrestling with a slowing metabolism. The weight that used to shrug off with a few workouts now sticks to the waist. I don’t like how thick I look around the middle, and never imagined that I’d need to deal with excess pounds in my lifetime. As a young distance runner, I could not put a pound on my frame without extreme indulgence.
But those eating habits from long ago come back to haunt you later in life. The hard-wired love of carbs does not go away easily. That excess energy gets stored as fat. It takes real discipline to modify a diet built around providing fuel for distance running, cycling, and swimming.
So I weigh between 180-186 in any given month. UP and down it goes. Yet I got out there Saturday and felt really good running at sub-8:00 pace for the first eight miles. I wasn’t straining at all to hold that pace. My legs weren’t tired and my lungs could keep up. I did know that I’d likely pay for that early pace past the eight-mile mark because I’d done practice runs at that pace and distance in training, but hoped that I could keep it up through thirteen. My longest run before the race was eleven miles. I figured to tough it out beyond that.
Sure enough, the 1.5M run west into the wind and north to Golf Road through Busse Woods grew difficult. I slowed to an 8: 20 pace going into the wind in the ninth mile. Then an 8:17 going north. Then came the climbs, and I dropped to 8:26 on the way out and 8:39 on the way back. The last steep rise on the bridge over the highway forced me to walk three steps. Then I was back in gear coming home the last mile and welcomed a keen drop off the bridge. Was that a relief! But my hips were stiff and tired by then. That area of my body needs strength work.
My Garmin watch showed that I’d dropped to 8:05 pace on the flat, but that was not enough to make up for the extremely slow climb over the bridge. That hurt, dammit.
I came across in 1:47:05 on my Garmin watch. My goal was 1:45 but those hills and that wind crushed those objectives.
The winner of my age 60-64 age group was Christian Evans, who ran 1:25, an exceptional time for sure. No one in our category was within fifteen minutes of his time. I was seventh in our group.
I’ll take it. I was grateful to be racing and having fun. Those first eight miles felt great, almost like I was young again. Granted, I cannot race at the 1:10 pace I once ran for the half marathon. But take note: the world record for 60+ runners is 1:11. I’ve never been a world-class runner, and don’t expect to achieve that level for the rest of my life. I can admire that guy however.
All of us can (and should) do what we can to stay healthy no matter what the speed objectives are. Even if those early-life miles have trashed the knees or hips, it is still good to get out there to walk or cycle if you can. If it takes some shoe inserts to support your feet and knees, there are tons of options these days. I wear Aetrex insoles in my running shoes and they work great. Add in some occasional strength work and it is surprising what your body can do at any age.
Glen and I are both grateful to be running decently at our age. Our goal for every person we serve through the store is to encourage and help them find their best path to fitness and “better numbers.” We have one life to live. Why not make it the best life possible?
Hope to see you out there. If you need some encouragement, reach me at email@example.com. This whole running and fitness thing isn’t just about me. It’s about us. That’s why I started werunandride.com, and why I like to write about Original Thoughts About Running, Riding (and Swimming.) If I can make you think or laugh, or give you reason to get out there, that’s the goal.
Happy Holidays. Let’s stay ahead of the cookies this year.