I was wheezing as I hit the second ascent in the 10k route I had myself tackle that Saturday. Not that I didn't wheeze when I did this same route years before. I got into oxygen debt just the same back then. But doing the short but quite steep climb felt more difficult and demanding this time. I can only think of age as the most logical explanation. The same explanation I can think of for the added weight and the frustratingly slower times I have been doing my runs.
It was a hilly route, five kilometers out from where I start just a short distance from home and another 5 kilometers back. Along the route are three rivers where the road descends while approaching and goes up again from the bridge that spans each. It's the same both ways.
There isn't very much flat surface to talk about which makes the route quite a challenging one. It gradually climbs from the start to the first kilometer mark before it levels off a bit and then descends to the first bridge and goes up again on the second climb. Whatever momentum you gain on the descent to the bridge is erased by the time you hit the middle of the second climb. There is no denying the labored breathing and the heart's vigorous pumping. It would be comforting no doubt to stop and just walk the rest of the distance to the top of the ascent. Who would mind?
I would. Stubborn old me wouldn't allow this climb, this entire route in fact, to take the best of me and run me down. Not today. My runner's pride won't allow it. I had run this route before, I could run it again, and I would run it again. Period. So I trudge along, taking on one descent and ascent after another, carrying on with the added weight from added years, gulping as much air as I could while negotiating every steep climb to compensate for the oxygen debt, dying at every effort only to be revived and resurrected again every I reach the summit and take the downhill again only to face death yet again in the next uphill.
My boss several decades ago, very familiar with my running back then, told me runners are masochists who find pleasure in the pain. The harder and more difficult the run, the more we love it, the more we find gratification in it. Perhaps there is truth in that. Just as much truth as there is in finding gratification in being able to conquer and discovering how one can fare in the face of adversity, what one can do to overcome challenges, and in that find the gift that has been given and the blessing that has been bestowed.
Not that many my age are as stubborn, or as obsessed, as me in my chosen sport. I look around and I often only see mostly people half my age or even younger doing what I do. I admit, I find pride in that. I revel in the fact that I am but among a few who can nail a 10k without taking a walking break in between kilometers. But at the same time, I am humbled by that. Humbled that such a gift has been given me. And when you realize that you have been blessed, what better thing is there to do than be grateful and give praise to the giver by utilizing the gift that has been given you?
And so I run on.