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Reflections November 2012

My Personal Best What?

By Jim Cotsana

I continued running for a good part of the last 40 years or so but my work schedule began to take up more and more of my time. Now in my early 60s and retired, I decided it was time to get back into shape and jogging seemed to be the best, although not the easiest, way to start.

I lined up at the starting line of a 10K race wearing an old pair of shorts and T-shirt with a number pinned to the front, along with a pair of rather worn running shoes. Standing next to me was a man in his early 30s in bright blue spandex running shorts, a white shirt with logo, and what looked like new and expensive shoes. While doing the obligatory stretches, he asked, “What is your personal best?”

Not understanding his question, I asked, “My personal best what”?

With a smirk, he stated, “Your personal best time in a 10K.”

Looking a little uncomfortable, I responded “I’ll know after I finish this race.” He slowly turned and walked off.

About a year and a half ago, I couldn’t help but notice that, not only were my pants getting tight, I had to buy a larger size. In addition, I was punching new holes in my belt and I was getting to the point where new holes were soon not going to be an option. I was certainly not feeling good about this every time I looked in the full-length mirror. Hence, I decided it was time to get back into some form of exercise and lose this added weight. I did regular exercise when I was in the Marine Corps, where not exercising, especially running, was not an option. During this time, I lost pounds and was able to keep them off and regular running seemed to do the trick. It was not easy but it worked and it actually became habit forming.

I continued running for a good part of the last 40 years or so but my work schedule began to take up more and more of my time. Now in my early 60s and retired, I decided it was time to get back into shape and jogging seemed to be the best, although not the easiest, way to start. I dug out my old running clothes and shoes and started off with a one mile slow jog three to four times a week. Eventually, I worked up to three plus miles jogging around the neighborhood where there are some flat stretches as well as a couple of gradual short hills.

After a couple of months I was feeling pretty good and my times were around nine-minute miles; nothing to write home about but good for me. The best thing was I was losing the weight and getting back into my smaller pant size. I was also adding a few more miles to my run.

During the month of May, I saw an ad in the local paper about a 10K race with the proceeds going to a local charity. I gave this some thought and decided to give it a try. I submitted the required application and fee. I was not thinking about winning, only finishing.

On race day, I was in the middle of the pack as it started. I spotted the young man who asked me about my “personal best” up towards the front. Because the crowd had about 700 runners, I was walking for the first minute or so since there was no room to actually run. My goal was to finish the 6.2 miles in less than 55 minutes which is not a great time but a good time for me.

After I got my pace and rhythm down, my objective was to pick out a runner ahead of me and try to catch up and overtake him or her. Once this objective was reached, I looked for another runner to focus on. There were plenty of friends and other onlookers along the course yelling encouragement and I know my wife was somewhere along the course with a camera. It’s really uplifting to hear the onlookers yelling encouragement (much different from a drill instructor) which doesn’t want to make you stop and walk a while even though there are times you would really like to. There were also periodic water stations with cups of water to hand out. While I was training I read about taking advantage of all water stations even if one didn’t feel thirsty.

As the race went on, I was feeling comfortable – I had reached my first objective and overtook a runner. I noticed a young lady up ahead about 25 yards who looked very attractive from my vantage point and made catching up to her my next conquest. Even though I’m very happily married and certainly old enough to be her father or grandfather, there is nothing wrong with looking.

I didn’t catch up to her since her pace was about like mine and I didn’t feel comfortable speeding up. About 51 minutes into the race, I finally saw the finish line. Although tired, I began to pick up the pace as I glanced at my watch. It looked as if I would reach my goal of finishing under 55 minutes. I finally crossed the finish line in 54:21 which certainly made me feel very good.

My wife found me and greeted me with a hug and took several pictures. I also felt like I accomplished something I didn’t think I was capable of at my age. Now, if ever asked, I can boast with confidence and pride that I have a “personal best.”

 

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