Assuming they do see me, though, what do they think? Do they think an old guy shouldn't be out there running? That I should be inside sitting quietly with a shawl over my shoulders? Do they worry that I might fall and break something? Would they care if I did?
Let's face it: I didn't plan to be old, and I never dreamed that I'd still be running this long after that first attempt way back in 1971.** In the years since then I've seen other old guys -- some of them as old as I am now, some even older -- out on the run. I never identified with them. I just admired them for keeping on. Now I see there's nothing particularly admirable in it. You just keep doing it because you've been at it for so long that you're afraid to quit. Or at least it's that way for me. I'm scared of what would happen to my body, which by now must be used to the almost daily pounding of the pavement.
Somewhere there's a picture of me in the early '70s, all decked out in new running gear. New shoes, new shorts, new top. All blue. The shoes were Saucony, I think. Maybe I can find that picture somewhere. If I do, I'll post it here. Young guy. Skinny. Black hair, and plenty of it. Those were the days.
Now? Gray hair, thin on top and almost gone in back. Not so skinny, and definitely not young. I don't have any recent photos of me in running gear, nor are there likely ever to be any. Who'd want to look at them? Certainly I wouldn't.
The funny thing is, I don't feel much different from the skinny guy in the photo. On the inside, I'm still young, which I'm sure is true of all old guys. I still think of myself as the dark-haired kid in the new running togs, ready for anything.
I can remember the routes I used to run, even some the exact quirks of the pavement, the rocks beside the road. I could go there tomorrow and feel not a thing had changed in 35 years.
I don't think I will, though.
*By my definition. Probably not by yours.
**More about that later. If I get around to it.