Better with Age

In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I joined the cross country team. I didn't join because my parents were runners and I had it in my blood. I didn't join because I was just naturally super-fast. I didn't join because I was kissing up to the coach (although he was my Algebra teacher... but if you read my Mathematician entry, you'd know I did okay on my own in math classes). I joined because I had a huge crush on one of the guys who joined the team!

I stuck with cross country for the next 3 years of high school, and my crush dropped off of the team after his first race our freshman year. While I was never more than just a homecoming date to my crush, I don't regret joining the cross country team one bit! I made some lifelong friends while bonding over torturous practices and trips to our races. I was never really a great runner, but I kept at it and had the endurance to do the two mile races (the girls ran 2 miles, the guys ran 3). I also ran the distance races in track during the spring semesters of my freshman to junior years, participating in the 3200m (2 mi.), 1600m (1 mi.), 800m (1/2 mi.), and 4x800m (relay).

We practiced A LOT! During the season, we practiced on Monday through Thursday, then raced on Saturdays. For cross country practice, I remember running long distance practices with ridiculous hills up one particular road (Stoneway Trail), running sprints up a really steep hill, 3/4 mile loops through the Stoneridge subdivision over and over again, and the 5 mile runs to the corner of Hughes Road and Old Madison Pike in weather so cold that you couldn't feel your frozen fingers (we even ran in snow once) but you were still sweating under your sweat shirt because of the body heat that you generated during the long run.

I kept a scrapbook of the articles that were published in our local paper, The Madison County Record, about our cross country and track teams. I was also in the computer classes at the time so in addition to the articles, I have spreadsheets of my times (and my teammates' times) throughout the seasons, and I even authored some of my own articles (published only in my scrapbook). During my reorganization of the house, I just ran across that scrapbook. In the scrapbook is an article about a 5K race fund raiser that our team put on and was also forced to participate in. I finished the 5K in 30:30! I was very surprised to find that at nearly 33 years old, I'm actually significantly faster than I was at 14, 15, and 16 years old (my fastest recent 5K time was 25:46)! Guess you really can get better with age!

My 2 mile times for the cross country trails ranged from 19:15 in my very first race (which happened to be on the hardest course of the season) to 15:35 my junior year (on the easiest course). While I haven't run a 2 mile race since high school, I bet that I could beat that 15:35 time now. I would love to hit the hard course (the race was the "Vulcan City Classic" at "Magic City Running Park") and see how I would stack up against my teenage self. Unfortunately, I did a search of this park and I don't know if it even still exists. Maybe the name has changed? Or if it does still exist, I don't know if the trail is permanently marked? Either way, I'm hoping that the next time that I'm visiting my old hometown of Madison, Alabama, I will be in shape enough to tackle the Stoneway Trail route and see if I can do it. Seriously... it's so steep that you have to drive up it in a low gear. It kicks your butt! But I bet this old butt could handle it!


Anonymous said...

That's great! It must feel good to be better with age:) I have nothing to compare my running times to. I never ran more than maybe 2 miles (and I'm not even sure I ever ran that far) before I started running as an adult. I do remember when we had to run the mile in P.E., that my time was usually around 9:30. Now I can easily run a 7:00 mile for one mile. I wonder if there is something to that? It seems like at races the hardest age divisions to place in are th 30-40 year old. I wonder if when we are young our bodies are still growing and our muscles can't handle the fast pace? Hmm...


Keri Donald said...

I know! Isn't it crazy how the older division is harder to place in?! I always wondered if it's because at that age women start thinking "Oh crap! I'm getting old and actually have to do something to keep myself in shape now." or if there are just less 20-somethings who want to compete in races?

Anonymous said...

I think it's what you said. I think the people in their 20's are having kids, focusing on careers, etc. Then, they hit their 30's and start focusing on exercise more ...maybe? Interesting though!