“Do not go Gentle into that Good Night”

In about three weeks I turn 55.

Which in today’s world is not that old, but it is the point where many start to believe that you are old, it is one of those multiple of 11 birth dates and I am eligible for senior citizen discounts in many places.

And to be honest, I am struggling with hitting the double-nickel age-wise more than a little. This birthday is tougher than either my fortieth or fiftieth birthdays – maybe that too is part of the aging process, especially when you refuse to age gracefully.

“Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” – Dylan Thomas

Truthfully I don’t want to get old, but I am getting there and it is a hell of a lot better than the alternative. This post is just part of the process that I am going through to wrap my head around this thing called aging and how it is affecting me physically and my perspectives on many things.

I will try to focus this to running, but I am sure that I will wander every so often Smile.

Yes I am Slowing Down

In conversations on Twitter or when I read their blogs, I see what younger runners are doing in races or training and want to do those things too. Yet I am finding that I can’t. Which frustrates the hell out of me and much like me at their age, they don’t understand why I just can’t go out and hammer like they do, when I say that I can’t do something.

It isn’t that I can’t run or even that I can’t run fast, because I do okay for me and might even surprise many who are younger than me.

However, the problem is that when I run hard it takes longer for me to recover, sometimes a lot longer and when I push too hard without adequate recovery – I get injured. That is part of the aging process and just the way it is.

The other part is that my perceived effort is different today than it was when I was in my 20’s or 30’s. My old 6:00-7:00 minute perceived training pace, has changed to a 8:00 to 9:00 minute pace. When I look down at my watch, I can’t believe how much slower it is, when I feel as though I am giving the same or more effort as when I was younger.

So my training is less efficient for faster running than it used to be, which means that I will not get as fast as I once was.

That is just reality – sorry but that is the way it works.

While I was no where near this level – ask guys like Rodgers, Salazar, Shorter  and all the other greats, who might still run fast for their age group, why they aren’t competing at the front of the pack – it comes down to one thing – their age.

Mental Mind Games

Oh we play the mental mind games of saying we are resetting our PR’s and talking about competing in “our” age groups, but in truth all that is a crock of crap. We all still remember what our actual PR’s are and still want to break them, even when there is no way in hell that we ever will.  Yes I enjoy competing with others in my age group, but hell yes I would like to still be able to compete in the open classes at local races – my old times would be doing nicely up here in some of the smaller local races.

Maybe I am just having a hard time letting go of “what used to be” and “how it was”. Sort of kind of maybe, but at the same time, I think that I have both of my feet planted very firmly in reality and am painfully aware of the limitations and advantages that go along with getting older.

The reality is that

at some point in the not to distant future, I will slow down even more, even though I will fight it every step of the way

That is why I changed my tagline to:

“Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” –
Dylan Thomas

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

This has always been one of my favorite poems and as I get older, I understand the meaning of the message much more clearly.

There ain’t a whole lot we can do to stop the aging process, all we can hope for it to keep it at bay or slow it down for a time, but it catches us all eventually. No I am not as young as I was, but I do know that I will not go quietly into that good night and will rage with all my might against the dying of the light.

However, it still sucks when you see pictures of yourself now, and the picture looks more like your father to you, than it does you ;-).

10 thoughts on ““Do not go Gentle into that Good Night”

  1. Hey Harold! Thankfully (and in many ways not) I don’t look like my father. If he did not let himself go weight-wise, we might look more alike. I am fairly happy with competing in my AG (If I can get there again after my recovery/ rebuilding miles are over!). I think that’s why I like ultra’s. It’s just a lot of fun- the whole atmosphere- is so much more fun than any other races I have done. It’s just a new and different way to push yourself.

    1. Erik – when I look at pictures of my Dad when he was 55, I see way too much of me in those pictures, the fruit didn’t fall too far from the tree or mirror, so it seems. I like being able to compete in age groups, but it isn’t the same, not that I was ever all that good. You will get back to running ultras before you know it and that is one of the main reasons that I like running trails so much, there is just a different attitude at the races and I love trail running, just wish I didn’t have to drive so far to get to a trail :-).

    1. I like that skidding in sideways, sounds kind of what I am trying to do 🙂 Dylan Thomas had some great stuff, but the first time I heard Anthony Hopkins say this poem, it touched me and there are not too many poems that do. 🙂 Imagine that a former English Teacher that doesn’t like poetry all that much – I guess I was never one to march too much in step with everyone else.

  2. I will be 55 in November & I could have written the exact same post – I soooooooooo feel the same way. Actually for me, my 40’s were some of my best years – up till late when the women hormones started to attack! 😉 The 50s – they have attacked even more so! I can, like you, remember what I did on my 40’s & late 30’s when I was at my best & how yes, I have slowed down from there & it takes me longer to do the same thing… I am not willing to age gracefully – I fight it although I know with each year, the whole thing will piss me off more! 😉 I don’t want to accept it but I know at some point it will really hit me hard. PLUS with aging siblings – honestly, death being closer than further although we can all die at any time – it scares me.

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! I understand!!!!

    1. Jody – I have just been having a tough time wrapping my head around this one. I know that my best years physically are behind me and it sucks bad! I acknowledge that I have some limitations and then I try to see how far I can push them. No I think a lot of people in our generation are thinking much the same way and have decided to fight it tooth and nail. I know that I will until I can’t and then I might surprise myself ;-).

  3. I get that…I’m not in my 50’s yet but I do see what other more experienced, conditioned athletes are doing and I tend to think I can DO it! It’s not always the case and I need to come back to reality to see that I can’t do everything other people can do.

  4. Good post, Harold. I guess I have a bit of a different perspective, not having starting running until I was 47. I’m 53 now and this year I’m feeling slower, but I can’t tell if that’s because of the problems I’ve had in the last year or so (plantar, being the most note-worthy). Probably it’s age kicking in too, but in my case my PBs were only three years ago. Where we differ is I do chase age category; I know I can’t compete against 20-year-olds, but I also still push myself to compete in open categories as well, although that may end up being vanity in the long run. But, no, I”ll never go gentle into the good night. Cheers

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