I met Roger at the park. He ran past me, making a loop around the river. On the second loop – or maybe it was more, I didn’t really count them, he stopped for a chat.
“How long you been running?” I asked.
“Since I was 40,” Roger said.
“How old are you now?”
“How far do you run?”
“On my slow days, I run 3 miles. On my good days I run 7 to 8 miles.”
“Do you ever wake and feel like not running?”
“Oh, sure. On those days, I might run a 100 yards and realize my body just isn’t having it. So I go back home.”
Roger doesn’t have many of those days, however. His first started running competitively back in his high school days in Missoula, Montana. But he said he gave it up when he realized his times put him in 4th place on the team instead of in the top three. What was the point? So he quit the team and didn’t return to the sport until decades later.
Oh, to be sure, he stayed active during that time. Hiking. Biking. Anything outdoors. But at 40 he started running and loved the way it helped him mentally, emotionally.
“People who stay active think younger than people who don’t,” Roger said, noting that he belongs to a couple of different running clubs. In fact, when he moved up to Central Oregon from California some 30 years ago, he contacted the Chamber of Commerce and asked them about how to get connected to a running club.
“The club met on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, which was the same as the club I was with in California, so that made it easy,” he said.
Roger and his teammates took first place in their age bracket in Bend’s Pole, Pedal, Paddle event this year. The six event race includes a short downhill ski, 8k Nordic race and 22-mile bike ride, a 5-mile run, 1.5-mile kayak and half mile sprint back to Bend. Roger rain the 5-miles leg. Over 3,000 people competed, some as teams, some as individuals. Roger said his team won by default. They were the only team in their age bracket.
His favorite race over the years has been the DipSea Race in Northern California. Roger prefers trail racing. Even now, he will go out into the trails of the Cascades and trains. The Dipsea claims to be the oldest trail race in the US. The first race took place in 1905. The trail is a 7.4 mile course is considered to be one of the most beautiful courses in the world. The hills of Marin County make it a challenging course for runners of any age.
One of his running buddies had to retire from running recently. At age 89, he was beset by health problems. Roger has some arthritis in his joints but he enjoys relatively good health. In the winter, Roger skies across country.
“Aging is a mindset,” Roger said. To emphasis his position, Roger shared a story about a class he took for folks 60 and up. “All they wanted to do was to talk about all the aches and pains they’ve got.”
Roger doesn’t have time for that. At age 83, he’s focused on far more important matters.
”People who stay active think younger,” he said.
That sure helps explain a lot about our current state of affairs. We should start requiring all political leaders log a minimum amount of physical exercise weekly. Anyone who doesn’t should be disqualified from office.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press).