I’m old. And I’ve recently decided that aging after 60 is exponential: each day I age feels like a hundred; sometimes a thousand. When I was 59, I was doing OK. A few years later, and I hardly recognize myself.
Not that long ago I was a competitive triathlete and runner. Then work and injuries—and a pandemic—got in the way. I hung up my sneakers and decided it was time to give it a rest.
But today I took a leap of faith. I ran a 10K race, my first since 2018. As I analyzed what possessed me to throw good money at such insanity, I settled on three things: 1) I whole-heartedly support the work of the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation, which was the beneficiary of a portion of the race fee; 2) Running in downtown Frankfort, Ky., is challenging and full of distracting and visually arresting historical landmarks; 3) I wanted to see if I could.
After a night of torrential downpours, it was a startlingly beautiful morning: sunny and cool (around 52 degrees), with the clearest sky we’ve seen in days. That alone gave me an edge, after running through the prolonged summer’s heat and humidity. I had convinced myself to take it easy, go at my training pace, and not try to keep up with my former competitors.
Frankfort sits astride the Kentucky River, and the city’s hills and bluffs offer challenging terrain. We started downtown at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, ran along Broadway where railroad tracks bisect the street in front of the old Greek Revival capitol building, traveled back down Main Street and up Capital Avenue to circle behind the new capitol, then returned to Main Street.
At that point, your stomach knots. As we turned east, we headed straight up a nearly half-mile hill past the old arsenal to the historic and exceptionally scenic Frankfort Cemetery, the final resting place of Daniel Boone. The hilly path through the cemetery offers a breath-taking vista of the city and the river below. After turning back toward the entrance, we encountered a lone drummer and cornet player in Revolutionary War garb playing period music. The smile on my face was as broad as the river, and my pace quickened. Once we exited the cemetery gate, it was a fast downhill back into town and around to the finish line.
I had a good race, exceeding all my expectations. Although I’m decidedly slower than I was in 2018, I felt at ease remembering what it’s like to push my body beyond what I think it’s capable of doing. And even this cranky old body cooperated. For nearly an hour I did not think about any of the sources of the summer’s sorrow and grief. I concentrated on my breathing, on the sights around me, and on chatting briefly with other runners along the course. For a few minutes, I was a kid again racing ahead of all the adult troubles sneaking up behind me.