May 25, 2009

What The Doctor Said

Every so often I read about the legendary physical exploits of the Tarahumara Indians. They are an indigenous people in Mexico who are known for being able to run long distances. One of the stories that is told about them involves the Olympics.

Two of the tribesmen were entered into the Olympic marathon and were thought to be among the favorites to win the race. As it worked out they were among the last to finish the event. However it wasn't because they were tired or out of shape, but because no one had told them how long the race was. They had assumed it was going to be much longer and complained that the race was too short.

To me that is impressive. When you look at 26 miles and consider it to be a warm up you know that you are in excellent shape.

I have been thinking about running. When I turned 37 I went for a physical and was told by the doctor that my knees are arthritic and that I shouldn't do exercises that provide undue stress on them. According to him ignoring that advice would lead to a knee replacement somewhere around the time I turn 50.

He also told me that overall my health was good, but that I needed to lose some weight. According to him that would provide some immediate benefits as well as long term. Good preventative maintenance.

I ignored his advice about playing basketball and running. I love to play ball. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is one of the simple pleasures in life. I never get tired of playing and when I don't I get cranky.

Add to the mix that when I play regularly it increases my ability to lose weight and you can see why I didn't like what he had to say. Oh, and did I mention that my knees don't hurt. I don't feel any sort of regular pain in them. Occasionally it happens, but that is usually tied into walking six or seven flights of stairs.

Anyway, I can accept that aging forces some changes upon us. I know that physically there are some things that are harder to do, but that doesn't mean that I am incapacitated nor does it mean that the doc's opinion is completely accurate.

Part of what made me think about all of this stems from a race I had with my son and some friends of his.

I won.

Sad, isn't it that a 40 year-old man is gloating about beating a bunch of kids in a sprint. But I needed that. I needed to push myself. I needed to hear the wind rushing in my ears. It has been a while since I made the body move like that. It felt good.

We raced a few more times and I won again and again. Tried to convince some of the other fathers to join in but they didn't.

I need to find someone who will. I need to find someone faster than I am. Not so fast that it is impossible to beat them, but fast enough that I know that I have to try.

Those Indians run and run and run their entire lives. They prove that some of our thoughts/beliefs about when our bodies begin to fail are not entirely accurate. They prove that there are things that can be done to stave off time.

And that is what I am doing. I don't care about the wrinkles or lines that are gradually appearing. Don't care too much about the hair and its migration. Just give me the ability to keep playing, to keep moving and I'll do the rest.

It is not too much to ask for.

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