It’s funny, but when I was young I never paid particularly close attention to the gray hair of older people. I always thought the hairs were really gray, when what actually happens is some of the hairs turn white, giving the appearance of gray when mixed with darker hairs, and viewed from afar. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about: I have hairs turning white all over my head these days.
For some strange reason, I was thinking about this very thing as I was jogging from home to the start of the Firecracker 5K race this morning. Some people dye their hair to cover up the white ones, but that certainly isn’t something I would ever consider. No, I decided, I will continue to embrace who I really am, even if it means looking older. I realized a lot of us older people don’t call it gray anymore either, we now call it silver. While we may start to feel old and slow, the word silver signifies something still of value: I kind of like that! Silver!
There were a lot of people lining up at the start line with all ages and levels of conditioning represented. I chatted with a few of my Red River Runners friends as we waited, commenting on the high humidity and threatening clouds zipping over our heads. We wished each other luck a few minutes before the start and then began jockeying for our individual starting positions. I ended up with my toe actually touching the starting line, which I considered a good omen! The horn sounded and we were off!
I haven’t run a 5K (3.1 mile) race in almost three years mostly because I enjoy running a little slower and longer than is typical for this short of a race. This was going to be the kind of run where you have a high heart rate and are continually gasping for breath the entire time you are on the course: Not something I find particularly pleasant! Still, my training guru Martin likes his disciples to race a few times during their training cycles in order to assess fitness levels so that we can make adjustments to the intensity of our workouts if necessary.
I started out fast and then slowed a bit into what I hoped would be a sustainable pace for the rest of the race. It began to sprinkle, which worked to keep me a little cooler without actually soaking me. It was going pretty good! I neared the turnaround point, and realized there were no more than 10 people in front of me. I was half way done and really cruising! Could I hold this blistering sub 7 minute mile pace for another 11 minutes? I had my doubts!
I set my sights on two men a hundred feet in front of me, and told myself I would pass at least one of the. Both were much younger than I; one extremely slender, and the other extremely muscular, making me think he once played football. I gained a little on Mr. Muscle, but Mr. Slender was slowly pulling away. After a half mile of this, Mr. Slender stopped running and began walking. Mr. Muscle and I passed him about the same time, and it was at that moment that I thought again about my gray hair. I realized I was likely adding insult to poor Mr. Slender: Not only couldn’t he hold his pace for the entire race, he got passed by a 48 year old gray man to boot! Oh, the humiliation!
Then I remembered that I wasn’t gray, I was silver, and not only silver; I was now “The Silver Streak!” With about a half mile to go, I inched by Mr. Muscle, who upon noticing I was as old as his Grand Father, immediately shot by me again with one last burst of speed. His energy waned quickly however, and I soon passed him again; this time for good!
I shot across the finish line with a time of 21 minutes, 46 seconds (7:01 pace); a new personal record by 3 ½ minutes! “The Silver Streak” ended up placing 7th out of the 197 people running the 5K, and 2nd out of 12 in my age division (men 40-49). The guy who beat me in my division was a 40 year old who won the entire race in less than 19 minutes! But do you know what the best part of the morning was? Right after I finished, Mr. Muscle walked up and gave me a high five, saying I ran a great race. He said he had tried to keep up with me down the stretch, but I was too fast! Yes, that’s right folks: The Silver Streak gets going, and he don’t ever stop! WHOO WHOO!