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Running Fitness

Date: 
02/22/2011 - 13:31

By Ellen Jaffe Jones

bio straight hair 015edited  72.jpg Runners are an interesting lot. For starters, as we get older, we are the only segment of the population, as far as I know, who are really eager to get older.

No matter where we run, awards will be given in our age group. When you first enter an age group, generally you are faster than your older counterparts in the same age group. As a runner reaches 58 or 59, for example, the 55-year-olds entering that same age group generally are going to be faster. Not always, but usually this is so. It is not uncommon to hear “mature” runners at races like the Dolphin Dash on Anna Maria Island, Florida recently wishing to be 60, 65 and 70 --the years when you jump to the next age group and are most likely to win.

Waiting for the awards, I stood next to Sherry Storms, a frequent age group winner in Sarasota races. I have always thought of her as one of the seriously fast “Sarasota Girls.” I know when the Sarasota girls show up, there’s no chance of me winning.

She joked about how runners always know how old you are because you have to go so public with your age at races.

Some of the people who used to beat me by a long shot are now behind me, or not showing up at all. Racing always ebbs and flows as runners get injured or take time off. The aging process makes you slower over time. But thanks to age group designations, it’s all relative. The competition never seems to be serious, although most of the regular participants have a vague idea of who beats them or who they need to beat in their own age group. When the really fast runners show up at races, and they’re in your age group, you can hear the slower ones say, “There goes the age group.”

It’s all in good fun. It really is about fighting off those nasty aging symptoms, enjoying the sunshine (usually) and great camaraderie. Facebook has united a lot of us. It is not uncommon to see photos posted within a few hours of a race, and the post race chatter continues online. What a hoot! Are we 16 again, or what? When I was in high school, girls got to choose between home economics and typing. The only after school sport for girls was field hockey. Cross-country or track was not even a possibility. How cool is this that we can race with people our own age now? And with such beautiful scenery as we often see?

The Dolphin Dash is one of two races held on Anna Maria Island. Most residents are not aware of the race as it quietly snakes around the school and the surrounding sleepy neighborhoods. Police and volunteers do a tough job standing in the cold and making sure runners stick to the marked paths and drivers stick to the marked road. At the recent race, one driver didn’t see the marked lanes and started driving down the lane with runners. A volunteer came over and had to pound on his window repeatedly before the driver realized there was a race going on. Ahh, Florida drivers…

I’ve seen more than one motorist yell unkind words as they wait in the driveway or at an intersection for runners to pass. I’ve been known to answer cheerfully, “Think how much money all these runners are saving our country on insurance and drugs!” So perhaps impatience with races can be eased by reflecting on the good health that is rolling by, or imagining that this is an hour of volunteer time to help the racers, and especially children who are competing.

I ran a 4-miler over the huge bridge in Sarasota. It was the first time I’d ever seen a woman in the 90+ age group. And two 85-year-old women finished as well. None of them looked a day over 60. Us young‘uns just stood around and gawked. “That’ll be me,” we all said practically in unison. And that, my dear friends, is what it is all about, isn’t it?

Ellen Jaffe Jones is an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America nationally certified personal trainer, running coach, author and cooking instructor. She has a website at www.vegcoach.com and can be reached at ejones@vegcoach.com.

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