I am letting no cat out of the bag by admitting that sometimes writers with a weekly column write a few columns in advance. That way, when stuck with writer’s block they can pull them out to meet their deadline. On a plane in January, I was thinking about my 35th birthday coming up and penned the following. Its main premise was rendered moot in early February when the Boston Athletic Association. changed the Boston Qualifying standards. But, as my feelings remain the same, I decided to keep the article and let you see what was going on in my mind on that plane.
Since I have begun running marathons there have been two times which mattered to me most: 3:10 and 3:00. The latter, like the four-minute mile, actually means much more if it is one-hundredth of a second faster. In fact, I can think of nothing more agonizing in the marathon world than running a three hour, zero minute and zero second time. So I guess 2:59:59 was the number which actually mattered more. But the former, the 3:10 time, well, that represented Boston. Personally, the time became a reality when I dropped 10 minutes (rather unexpectedly) in my fifth lifetime marathon and qualified for Boston for the first time. It also represented the goal I have on numerous occasions (10 times officially; many more unofficially) helped others attain by being a pace group leader. 3:10. It just has a nice ring to it. I also never thought about any other qualifying time. None even mattered. Until now.
I am now 35. Besides the fact I haven’t the foggiest idea how that happened, I now no longer have to run 3:10 to qualify for Boston. Now, 3:15 is my time to beat. I get five more minutes, magically, overnight, by aging one more second. Not a bad trade-off really. Of course, I am hoping this becomes a moot point soon and the Boston Marathon organizers make the qualifying standards harder. I wrote in a column last year about this desire but the fact remains that at least for the time being I have a little bit of a cushion. Here’s the thing: I do not want that damn cushion.
Perhaps it is a glimpse at mortality. Perhaps because I am no longer in the 18-34 year old demographic which advertisers feel is the one they need to spend most of their time and energy on influencing is making me feel old. I mean, I don’t actually feel old. I am in the best shape of my life. Thirty-five year-old Dane could kick 17-year-old Dane’s butt. But the number 35 makes me feel like I should feel old. And the move from 3:10 to 3:15 somehow compounds that. It is almost a little pat on the head with the accompanying, “Aww, it’s okay, old man.”