by Stephanie Mumford Brown
In 2022, I’m going to run for fun.
This means I will run at the frequency, distance, and pace that make me happy — WHILE I am doing it, not just when it’s over. I’m going to be a lazy geezer, not “and proud of it,” but accepting of it and by no means ashamed of it.
Easy goal, right? Not for a naturally competitive person. Remember, this is a woman who has to make fun a goal.
My vow emerges from my favorite race of 2021, the Albany Last Run 5K, which took its final tour of the holiday light show in Washington Park before the display moves elsewhere next year.
I hate 5Ks. To finish in my goal time, I have to pursue unrelenting speed. In 2019, I pushed myself into the top finishers in my age division in a major turkey trot and a few local races (including that year’s Last Run), and I hated every step.
This year I decided to avoid pre-race jitters, in-race misery, and post-race exhaustion. Instead, I ran this 5K at a 10K pace.
Lo and behold, I enjoyed every moment: the fireworks just before the start, the crowd swarming up Washington Avenue, the warmth of the scrum despite a sharp breeze, the silly-sweet costumes, the kids holding parents’ hands or riding on shoulders, and the gleaming, twinkling, foolish, charming, sparkly colored-light tableaux that lined the course. This year I actually looked at the displays (with an eye out for patchy pavement and puddles, of course).
Mind you, I by no means hate the aftermath of running a fast 5K. The purity of measurable accomplishment provides refreshing rationality in a world gone mad and a personal life full of loss. As I’ve confessed before in this forum, I get a childish kick out of winning plastic trophies and real cookies.
In 2021 I did manage to win a (small) age division AND have fun the whole time in my second favorite race: the Squirrelly Six portion of the Hairy Gorilla at Thacher Park. I do love 10Ks, and this year’s was a total gas—terrific weather and terrible footing, after a wet week turned the trails into streams. I romped through the swamp like a kid again, and utter acceptance of messing up may be what made my slow but risk-taking pace faster than that of my age peers as well as a bunch of younger folk.
Still, I have come to realize that I run mostly for mental health, not physical achievement. Running keeps my legs happy and my brain busy. My proudest accomplishment of 2021 is not finishing my first half-marathon, but ingraining a new habit of thinking about writing while I run, which encourages me to do more of both.
The Druthers Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon was a feel-good experience, but mostly when it was over. While I beat my personal goal time, this race drew women in my division who could kick the bejeezus out of 25-year-olds, not just peers like me. I realized that competitiveness at this level requires a training menu that’s beyond my current appetite.
I do intend to enter the H-to-H again, now that it’s returning to its nearly all-downhill original course, with no goal other than having a good time WHILE I am doing it. After all, it’s a communal experience with a bunch of nice people—kind of a progressive party.
So that’s the New Mellow Me in 2022. Will race for swag. And run for fun.
But watch out, 2023: That’s when I tip into a new age division.
Stephanie Mumford Brown is Chief Wiseacre at Wiseacre Press, where she’s trying to compile the missing assembly instructions for the second half of life. She's a former reporter/editor, business writer and marketing consultant, now focusing on sportswriting, opinion pieces and books.