One of the bartenders at The Stone’s Throw at Shady Brook Farm on Friday was wearing a Christmas sweater with a “Home Alone” reference stitched into it, and since the two-mile course for the annual “Dashin’ Thru the Lights” run that I “took the night off” to partake in was marred by mud puddles due to Thursday’s weather debacle, I decided the title of this blog was clever. I’m sure you agree.
Except, here’s the thing (and we’re just going to gloss over the holiday greetings, given that Thanksgiving is still a week away): I’m, technically, not that much of an athlete anymore.
In fact, as I sit here writing this, I am supposed to be competing in a CrossFit event in Phoenixville. I registered as a team with my husband, mostly to support my friends who are organizing the thing, and not because we are competitive CrossFitters anymore, but I decided to pull out after pulling up lame — get this — trying to catch a football out in the yard last weekend. I tweaked a muscle in my back, or something. I can’t roll over in bed without yelping in pain, so I clearly am not going to drive an hour to squat clean barbells and push weighted sleds through parking lots all day.
Nothing like a dumbass Weekend Warrior injury to make you confront your mortality.
At 40, while I still work out regularly (and thus am still successfully clinging to some shreds of sanity), I definitely have scaled back the intensity with which I approach athletics, both physically and mentally. I used to be a ravenous competitor on the local CrossFit circuit. Now, at this point, it’s fair to say that my competition days are probably behind me. I used to run half marathons every fall. Now, it takes something like “Dashin’ Thru the Lights” for me to dig my running shoes out of the closet.
There are many reasons for that, none of which really needs to get fleshed out here. My life has changed in many ways over the past year, and with life change comes a rearrangement of priorities. It happens. It’s not necessarily good or bad. It’s just, life.
Friday’s event was something I wanted to do to kind of meld my old life with my new life. The athlete in me could get out and move and sweat – and, yes, compete, because even though I wasn’t officially in it to win it, I definitely wasn’t in it for the (premature) holiday spirit, either. And as a new Shady Brook employee, someone who never even visited the premises until I started working here in October, I could experience part of the community and the Holiday Light Show tradition that so many others have enjoyed for so many years. I could have actual FUN where I work, which, let’s be honest…those opportunities aren’t always abundant.
Guess what? I ran the two miles in less than 13 minutes. I didn’t see my exact time, but I beat my husband by a good 20 seconds, and he finished in 13:16. That’s a sub-7-minute mile split! I’m pretty pleased with that, considering the last time I ran any significant distance was when I visited my sister in Boston at the beginning of October, and I had worked a full week at the farm – on my feet – prior to lining up at the entrance to the Light Show.
We looked up the race results, mostly for my husband’s benefit, because he actually had a bib, and my time apparently would have been good enough for first in my age group. Hahaha. The old dog – with the bad back – can still hunt a little bit, I guess.
I have to admit that, even at 40, feeling like an athlete still means something to me. It was such a huge part of my early life. Probably to a fault. I never lost the love of sport, or competition, but it slowly has evolved into a love of just physical activity, and it’s been a long process to understand that I don’t have to actually do something concrete or achieve something tangible OR LOOK A CERTAIN WAY to be OK. I just have to do what makes me feel good.
You know, defining what it means to “be an athlete” is really like defining when the Christmas season starts. Your house, your rules.