You know what I mean. When you are filling in a survey and you are putting in the demographics, or looking at the results of your race. Suddenly you realise that you’ve crept into the next bracket up – with the really old people. This weekend was one of those (sadly increasing) moments in my life when I suddenly feel old. As I slogged around the 13.1 miles of the Great North Run this year I found myself looking at the usual places and not seeing much change. Then I looked around me and realised that everyone seemed at least ten years younger and in some cases much more. Either that or they were the grizzled veteran type runners, often with rather odd running gaits that look incredibly inefficient and/or painful and slow, but of course ’work for them’ (proven as they power past you unconcerned at the moment you are seriously beginning to flag). It was not so much that I felt physically old. That said I do have more aches than before and that last few miles are starting to be less and less fun. The battle against the waistline (always a struggle for me ever since childhood, which makes my heart break when I see a lot of the overweight kids these days, but that is a rant for another day) is becoming harder. I’ll never, ever get back to my half marathon best time of around an hour and a half (in fact, if I did not have the official results I probably would not believe now I could ever have run that fast) and struggle to keep it to two hours. Slowing down is inevitable without making the lovely Wife a complete running widow or being a lot more focussed; and anyone who knows me well will also know that focus is not my strong point and I am a lot more likely to waft around like a particularly chunky butterfly. No, I just start to feel the passage of time. This year the Great North Run was my 20th consecutive time, having first ran it in 1995. It is quite sobering. I have some younger friends who were not born when I first crossed the line in South Shields. Part of me is proud to reflect on that, part of me is shell shocked by what that means. For some reason it never seems as bad when I’m thinking of my 22 years with P&G, although that also causes some trauma when your memory goes past the number to think about the details of those years and the people and memories that time represents. I think coming to term with the passage of time for me is a matter of keeping as physically active as I can, while getting the mental state right – for me. Some things you have to cast off and let go. The place I grew up in is gradually being whittled away as I go home – areas that were open fields that I used to run in are turning into housing estates; the main reason I go back to the North is my dad, and beyond that really, much as there is much to recommend the city that is Newcastle these days, I do not think that I will be going up for any other reason. So I’m letting go, and this will be my last GNR. It’s been fun, I feel I’ve achieved all I can achieve (including the silly fancy dress option a few years back) and by not taking up my entry next year someone else will succeed in the ballot. Meanwhile I go out when it is my choice and before my knees give way and start something else. That is what I find most helpful in avoiding feeling old. Being blessed with young friends thanks to previous youth work emphasises the importance in me of starting new things and keeping something fresh in the portfolio because I see it in their freshness; whether it be something like a new volunteering post, or my Open university degree – or even just shaking up my work routine – if you can introduce something new you can recapture a little bit of the enthusiasm of being young. It is not the elixir of youth, and you cannot avoid getting older, but damn it, you don’t have to grow old gracefully. I’m going kicking and screaming with all the low animal cunning I can muster.
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