For me, training has always been a private thing. Even when out with friends, with the full intention of enjoying and engaging in someone else's company, I end up entering a remote part of myself. Talking takes on an unnatural effort, and the risk of disturbing my or anyone's encounter with this part of themselves inclines me towards silence.
Like many of us, I believed that aging as an athlete meant pursuing longer distances, but it wasn't for me, my body continued to break down due to injury. Then I found masters track racing. I may be a solitary athlete, some might even refer to me as an introvert, but I'm also competitive, and finding a sport that allowed me to continue to push despite my limitations was important to me.
After a long battle to recover from a recurring back injury, what kept me going was the love of sport. I just wanted to do it. I was told more than once that my skiing and running days were over. But determined to return to competition, I found ways to work around my limitations.
I discovered my love of track and cross-country skiing in high school, and it's been a constant in my life ever since. Now at age 55, I have been a constant at masters events across the country. I even attended open Nationals as a master on occasion, not because I am competitive with the younger athletes, but because I love the atmosphere.
My body and speed have changed over time, but the feelings elicited by start lines and race courses remain. So does my competitive spirit. When I'm competing, I'm focused. It lights a spark in me that's the same as I remember from the early days. It takes a lot of dedication and motivation but at the end of the day, I just need to focus on doing my best.
It's hard to age, but I put aging aside and say this is my body and this is how I train and compete. The purity of effort, and the joy of being able to give that effort, keeps me coming back. Everyone's journey and ideas of success are different. What I can control and focus on is my path and where I want to take it.
That's the real spirit of the sport. In the end, it's nothing special. It's competition. Some people do it faster than others. I love to compete. I love to have my feet on the ground, chasing some beautiful dream.
Training is a way of life and I do not see this in the accumulation of medals, races run or miles completed, or the idea of achievement. However, I am determined and driven every single day to be the best version of myself. There is no finish line on the journey to prove anything. Training is full of ups and downs. And most importantly, training is one of life's choices that is worth getting up for, day in and day out.