Is There Life After Running?
Are you a runner with knee problems? Have you ever thought that running was wearing out your body?
I used to be a runner, or rather a jogger, but pain in my knees put an end to my running. Not right away. At first I tried to solve the problem with a variety of methods. My doctor suggested I see a podiatrist who, as soon as he saw me, diagnosed the problem. The solution? For a mere $350 I was going to be jogging again in no time. Several years later, with a wide variety of orthotic insoles idly sitting in my closet, I gave up on jogging.
I was thinking about this while I was reading one of the current Tour d’Afrique 2019 participants, Tom Perlmutter’s blog. In his introduction Tom writes; “I had been running for about 25 years, going for long, solitary runs. As I was getting older, I couldn’t run as I used to. I looked around for something else that would give me the same combination of endorphin rush and meditative distance from daily life.”
Tom is not the only former long distance runner on this year’s Tour d’Afrique. There is also Shirley Frye, who at one point qualified for the trials for the US Olympic marathon team. Her husband Dan, who is with Shirley riding across Africa, at one point held the US record for the mile in the over 40 age category. Several years ago when I chatted with Dan and Shirley over a beer, I asked what prompted them to join one of our tours. The answer was the same. The body can only take so much of the pounding that is a part of running.
On the first ever Tour d’Afrique in 2003, one of the participants (whose biggest frustrations was that he did not become a standup comedian in spite of his great comedic talents), had finished 13 Ironman triathlons. One day while cycling beside him I asked him what the difference was between doing an Ironman triathlon and the Tour d’Afrique. He said that you spend months to prepare for an Ironman and then the one day of reckoning is on you, whereas the Tour d’Afrique is impossible to prepare for. Instead of one day of reckoning, there are over 100.
It made me laugh because I recalled the story of the creation of the original Ironman triathlon when members of a runners club and a swim club in Hawaii were discussing which athletes were in better shape. In the room was a US Navy Commander who pointed out an issue of Sports Illustrated that mentioned that it was the champion cyclist Eddy Merckx who had the highest oxygen intake ever measured, so that maybe it was cyclists who were the best athletes.
I do not know if the Ironman competition has settled the argument of who are the best athletes but I do know that although I gave up running in my late thirties, I am now, at the age of 67, happily cycling centuries – when the tour schedule requires it! Maybe not as happily as Shirley but then again, I was never an Olympic caliber runner.
In his latest blog from the 2019 Tour d’Afrique Tom, who is now 70 years old, writes; “I am surprised by the distances I can now cover. I am no longer daunted by days in succession that might exceed 170 kilometres. The other week I was exhilarated to do a double century (100 miles) back to back.”
So what does all of this mean? Well, it is quite simple. If you are a runner and are wondering what you will do when your body tells you – no more running – do not despair. There is life after running. It is called long distance cycling.