After my second knee operation (removing fragments of meniscus, scraping some mildly arthritic deposits) via arthroscopy, the doc showed me the MRI scan and said I didn’t have a whole lot of cartilage left in my knee. “On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re at a 7…” — “10” meaning no cartilage left, or bone-on-bone. A light bulb went on. Quit racing, you dumb fuck! Especially since my racing entailed running real fast down hlll to make up for slow uphills.
I ran the half mile and cross-country in high school. I wasn’t good enough for the Stanford track team, but once out of college and the Air Force, and when I was working as an insurance broker, I started running (in San Francisco) on my lunch hour. I wore a sweat suit and tennis shoes. Before the fitness boom. Often I’d run on the beach, then go body surfing.
It wasn’t until the mid-80s that I found out about RUNNING, Stretching guru Bob Anderson got me started, and then I worked for about a year with Olympic runner Jeff Galloway on his book, Galloway’s Book on Running. In the course of hanging out with Jeff for about a year, I started running seriously, and racing in mostly 10Ks and some triathlons. At that age (early 50s), I did better in my age group each year. And on it’s gone for 25 or so years.
In recent years I’ve been running the Dipsea Race, a 7.2 mile race over hill and dale from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach (north of San Francisco). The oldest cross-country race in America, it’s wild and romantic and difficult and beautiful, and it’s easy to get obsessed (and injured repeatedly).
Well, I’ve hung up my Dipsea shoes. I realized that probably the most important aspect of fitness is being able to move, to have mobility. I want to be walking for the next 25 years, so I need all the cartilage I can preserve. If you’re a runner and 60 or over, I suggest getting MRIs of both knees. Check that cartilage! it’s your shock absorber in this remarkable joint.
Once I made the decision to quit (competition, that is), a new world opened up. I don’t have to train! I don’t have to stress about running 2-3 times a week. I don’t need to run at maximum speed. So I’ve been hiking along beaches, riding my mountain bike — exploring new parts of my world — and it’s fabulous. With each excursion I go into new territory. I’m doing some fishing, more skateboarding.
Oh yeah, I still run a little, but just for fun…