As promised, this Mature Runner HAD to go out and prove his abilities (now called stubbornesses) and willingness to push through various challenges. The Frank Newman Marathon is always the last Saturday of May (Memorial Day weekend). It was cancelled. What? My rite of passage into summer CANCELLED?? No way José. Then the thought came – why not a “virtual” run? Well, there’s no way I’m going to “pretend” to do this marathon. After all, it’s the last (and only) running event I do every year. I have to keep the record going (see the above meaning of “abilities”). I’ve cajoled Bob Wade and Kathy Brown into letting me do this “on my own terms” every year….meaning I start at the old traditional starting line (the 200 yards past the 13 mile marker on Bridger Canyon Road, and imagining where the old “0” was paved over last year…..grrr). And I get to start anytime I want, like 2-3 hours ahead of the real start. Yes, the start has been changed to somewhere up Stone Creek out of safety’s sake. But I’m too stuck in my rut to go up the muddy Stone Creek! (remember, being stuck in a rut is called an ability) And true to form, this year saw a “snow mixed with rain” forecast all of Saturday. Of course. How many of these silly marathons have blowing rain/snow in your face all the way from Bozeman Pass to the Sacajawea Park??
So, here’s what happened. My family convinced me they really wanted to accompany me to Bozeman Pass. Stacy and 17-year old Jacky. They verified they were not being forced in any way to do this. I kept double checking, even right up until we took off. BUT – since there was NO event going on due to the Covid-19, I had the luxury of doing the marathon on Sunday instead. I changed the rules – that’s the hallmark of being a Mature Runner – you just make up your own rules – but follow them to the nth degree. The “improved” forecast for Sunday was for no rain. Accuweather and the Weather Channel both agreed. Being suspicious Sunday morning as I walked the dog in the rain at 3:30am, I checked one more time with Accuweather…..”there is a stationary front over Bozseman but clearing over Great Falls.” Hmmm, so….we parked the car at the start on Bridger Canyon Road, stepped out into a drizzle, and started walking. Low clouds, no – we were walking IN the clouds. The Bridger Ridge was shrouded until we reached Livingston. No views. Our ravings to Jacky about the amazing views of snow-clad peaks, luscious green meadows, and abundant wildlife was challenged for most of the day. And the snow was mixed with the rain., of course. Our theme became “Oh Boy” – said with hints of various degrees of sarcasm at every turn – whenever we’d pass a mile marker (yes, I’ve memorized all the mile marker locations after so many years of doing this) – or seeing the beauty of a low cloud hanging over a grassy pasture, or hearing a bird song. But we persevered. We DID see the same 20 or so elk around mile 4.5 on Jackson Creek – but this year in the rain, they weren’t energized enough by our passage to jump across the fence in front of us. We did see and hear many Sandhill Cranes, a rabbit, a deer, a muskrat in a pond, and no howling wolves at the Howlers Inn.
With no “official” clock ticking, I gratefully got into our waiting car at Bozeman Pass and wondered out loud about continuing. (a shameful thing to do L) I ended up spending 18 minutes in the car – got over my wavering, and took off again. And true to tradition, the 2ndhalf of the marathon was everything I’ve trained for all these decades – digging deeply, and just plain ‘ole “going for it”. And that, folks, is what Mature Runners love to do. That’s what distinguishes us from others – we continually set ourselves up for a much anticipated situation. Don’t we always search for opportunities to dig down into our core, and come up with some ability we seldom use anymore? We used to do this on a regular basis. I’d give one workout per week going ‘all out’ in some way or other. The thought was to keep “race ready”. With aging bodies, true “racing” just doesn’t happen the way it used to. I do have to admit that there are many runners in their ‘70’s and ‘80’s who are still intent on establishing records for their age divisions. So, it looks like my definition of a Mature Runner is someone who has “matured” past the need for recognition of athletic prowess, and is now just running/walking for the pure joy of “doing it” for its own sake. And that’s pretty much a therapeutic thing. There. I’ve said it. Running/walking is our therapy – bringing inner peace to the surface through an activity that is still very physical.
Back to Frank Newman. The finish time would make no difference. And to be very Frank (again), all the previous marathon times on this course, (or on any other for heaven’s sake!) really make NO sense. Yes, the number would go on my log (going back to the 1stFNM back in 1975) – just one more entry below last year’s entry. I hope the reader understands the irony of keeping personal records. And yes, I did spend many moments during the last 10 miles of this marathon figuring what average pace I needed to get “under” last year’s time. How silly is that – after explaining why finish times make NO difference. HA. They do, personally, but it is such a fleeting thing. So, a final definition of a Mature Runner is one who does silly things out of habit, and then moves on, ready for the next opportunity to do silly things.
David Nutter Summerfield
The following blogs were first published in The Windrinker, a running newsletter published in Bozeman, MT (www.Windrinkers.org). There is a constant attempt at viewing the foibles of long distance runners in a humorous light so we don't take ourselves too seriously.