My run on Monday included two laps around Kaufman Lake. Among the people that I encountered more than once was a pair of young black men. I don’t know how old they were—in their twenties, I suppose.
As I passed them the second time, one of them asked how old I was. I told him I was 52. He said, “Wow! You’re in great shape!” I thanked him and ran on.
That brief conversation has stuck with me.
First of all, I don’t think of myself as being in great shape, although I’m getting fitter. That particular run went on to be 2.4 miles at an 11:27 pace. That matches the distance of my longest previous run this year, and was actually the best pace I’d managed at any distance in a very long time. (When I’m estimating time or distance, I generally assume a 12-minute pace.)
Jackie pointed out that, if I was right about the men’s ages, their fathers would probably be just about my age. That might well mean that they have a very specific referent for the default fitness level of a man in his 50s.
There are certainly a lot of men in their 50s that are in pretty poor shape, but that doesn’t mean that I’m in good shape, let alone great shape. I’m still quite overweight (although as of a couple of weeks ago, no longer obese, according to the National Institutes of Health). I’m not in nearly as good shape as I was in 2004, when I was routinely running 6 and 7 miles for my long runs, nor the summer of 2005 when I was working my way up to riding a 100-mile bike ride.
Today’s run was 1.5 miles at an 11:22 pace. I’ve been recording my 1.5 mile runs as “easy” runs in my training log, but this was really the first one this year that qualified. The previous ones, if judged objectively (by heart rate, etc.) would rightly have been classified as “hard” runs. But I’m past that stage. I can run along at a comfortable lope and not be maxing out my aerobic capacity.
This is when running gets fun. And maybe that is the same thing as being in great shape.