Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's too late...not

By sheer coincidence the two women I interviewed today were both 63 years old, and going stronger than the majority of women half their age. I felt so inspired and energized after talking to each of them I almost went out for a second run--decided to write this blog entry instead, read the Peter Carey novel I'm loving, and roast up some of the yummy farmer's market veggies we bought yesterday.

Justine was the first woman I interviewed. She took up running at the age of 50, as a way to de-tox and shift her focus away from the fact that four weeks before her 50th bday her husband of 20 years had up and left her with about as much warning as if she'd been a one-night stand picked up in a bar the night before. Running gave her something to focus on and stopped her feeling sorry for herself. It was, as Justine put it, "An intervention in that feeling of waking up alone."

But then, as running does, it took on a life of its own.

A young nephew of Justine's told her about running the NY marathon and Justine thought, I can run an hour on a treadmill, I can run a marathon. She was right, though it took a bit of time to execute--a stress fracture kept her out of the first marathon she trained for and a fractured tibia kept her out of the second. She'd bought a book on marathon training and was following it religiously. The only problem was that it was a regimen for a 17 year old--run 2 miles day 1, and run 17 miles day 2, and so on...No wonder she was injured.

At work and at home, among colleagues and friends, everyone said, "It's too late." An insightful orthopedist told her, "You'll figure out how to do it." And she did, running her first marathon at 55 years old. She's still going strong.

"I never thought of it as 'sports'. In high school I would wonder if the gym teachers would notice if I told them for the third straight week that I had cramps again, so I could lie down instead of participate."

Justine has never run with a partner. She runs alone and it's "a singular thing," just for her. In her work life, in the film business, she's very social. Running ensures she carves out some quiet time.

More important though is that it reminds her of what she's capable of. "I can do this, and if I can do this, there are a lot of other things I can do," she often thinks on a tough run. Too, runs change every day, some are good, some are mediocre, some are awful. How a run starts may not be how it ends. "It's like life," she points out. Sports reinforces and reminds us that life is constantly moving in different directions, often all at the same time, and we can accept and adapt to the constant change without feeling defeated.

And Justine reminds me that it's never too late, no matter what people say. How lucky is that?

More anon on the other amazing 63 year old I spoke with...