Well I’m planning to do the swim in X minutes. I don’t wanna, you know, be getting out of the water with like, the 50 year old guys.
I saw red. I know I fired a look in his direction. My friends know the one. It’s the look where I’m really, really, really unimpressed, and quite comfortable to tackle the issue head on, so to speak. My eye’s were narrowed, gazing into the distance. Except I didn’t tackle it. It wasn’t my conversation, nor my place to. But boy, did the glib remark, chucked around in a gym training room by somebody frankly, who isn’t going to be breaking any records any time soon.
So why did this wind me up?
Well I’m not 50. Not yet at least. I’m a tender 44, still wet behind the ears and learning life’s lessons one at a time. Neither am I that involved in triathlon any more. I did a stint at the coalface some years ago and retreated to where my true interests lie; offroading in its myriad forms (fancy a bit of cross anyone?). But what annoyed me, really annoyed me was the conceitedness; ‘I don’t wanna….. be getting out of the water with….the 50 year old guys’. This was coming from a lad in his late 20s or early 30s. Frankly, if I’m not doing the time he bandied about in my 50s (and maybe 60s or even 70s, fingers crossed), I’ll know (KNOW) I’m not spending enough time in the pool. Everyone’s abilities are different, which is why I blanked out the time and the distance (I promise you, for anyone who invests a bit of time and effort into the activity, it was not fast at all). But this is not about any elitism or athletic snobbery, this is about ageism. For in this lads eyes, the 50 year old guys are apparently embarrassing to be with and perhaps should have given up some time ago.
Well I’ve got news for this chap. Age is no barrier whatsoever. I know a 60 year old man who can run 32 minutes for 10km. Along with 95%+ of the field, I’m regularly thrashed – proper thrashed, not merely beaten – by a 50 year old in the Welsh Cyclo-cross League. If our budding triathlete turned up for the Old father time 5 mile veterans road running race in Cardiff, I doubt he’d even make the top 30. But the dangerous thing about this type of talk, is that it produces a ridiculous mental barrier, thrown up out of ignorance and arrogance, that becomes fact for the easily persuaded. “I can’t do that I’m X years old” or “Why is he/she being so silly at his/her age?”. Recently I Retweeted an age related sports message with the addendum “This proves age is no barrier”. I received one reply along the lines “That’s easy to say, but what about all the pain, bad backs and knees?”. It was such a stupid remark that I didn’t bother to reply – quite out of character for me – opting to mute the sender instead. That comment confuses age with injury. Of course you can’t run a marathon if your Achilles is wrecked or your knees have given up the ghost. But you can still do alternatives if you choose to. I know, because my Achilles tendons are wrecked and I pursued alternatives because I chose to. Age is not and should not, be a barrier to involvement, enjoyment and challenge. After crashing whilst mountain biking a few years ago – I survived fine, the bike did not – I was asked, quite seriously, “What the hell are you doing that for at your age?” I grinned. “At 42?………….training for when I’m old enough to do it properly”. I wasn’t asked again.
So never listen to a negative voice or follow where others choose to shuffle. Listen only to your own mind, respect only the limits of your own body and always, always, lead only your own way.
Top image: My bike following my path.
Bottom image: L’eroica rider via Nicola Carignani (contact details and more examples of Nicola’s work here).