Stopwatch tells the truth


By Fred Deckert


When Dylan Thomas wrote “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” he was probably not thinking of running or athletic problems. But, paraphrasing him, “Rage, rage against the slowing of the pace” might have a lot more relevance to older runners. Most of us find it quite difficult to cope with the inevitable degradation of our running ability. Oddly enough, most of us still feel subjectively like we are running the pace we ran 10, 20 or 30 years previously! It’s that darn stopwatch that brings us back to the real world. I’ve been known to check mine for malfunctions or question whether I’ve gotten off course on my solitary training runs. When running in a race it’s painfully obvious that it’s me that has slowed, not the watch malfunctioning. Incredibly, the folks pulling away during the race are running slower than I am, lending credibility to the idea of internal mental trickery.

When I look at my watch and see that I’ve just run a 12 minute mile, I can’t help but remember that 20 years ago no one could convince me that that was actually running or even jogging. And this is from someone that never was better than a mid pack competitor. I can hardly imagine the ego crushing realization that afflicts really competitive runners who now find themselves far behind the front of the pack.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I, and others of my acquaintance have been treated to the effusive greeting at the end of a race, “Wow! I finally beat you, I’ve been after you for years!” Sometimes it’s really hard not to discard diplomacy and say that the victory was due more to my slowing down than to their improvement. But, it costs nothing but a bit of pride to give them a good feeling by a sincere congratulation for their effort. After all, the clock tells the unequivocal true story.