A story about an old man named Irving

Today’s Training: 7.5 mile tempo run.  It was a muggy, cool morning, and I definitely ended with my heart beating out of my chest.  And as always, I feel so strong after finishing a tough run.  Strong and beat!

My marathon may be 82 days away, but the Women Olympic Marathoners’ countdown: 3 days.  I hope I have a chance to watch these amazing athletes.  I always keep tabs on Paula Radcliffe- the world record holder in the women’s marathon (2:15:25- holycrap).  She had to back out of the Olympics this year due to an injury- and London is her hometown.  I can only imagine her devastation.  I saw a quote from her that went something like “My sport is so rewarding, but it can also be devastating when your body just cannot do what your mind and heart want it to.”  True, but with a record like that, she is still my hero as she is many others.  Good luck to all of those Olympic runners- they are such an inspiration.

So onto the story of my favorite race ever about an old man– we’ll call him Irving.  Imagine the cutest old man ever.  Imagine the Up fellow sans the walker.  That’s Irving.

There is a five mile race locally that Irving had done every single year since the day it was founded- he never missed one.  If I remember correctly, it’s actually on his birthday.   This particular year was his 80th birthday, and he knew physically that this would be his last time running this race.  I know this because the announcer was telling us his story as we finished, and asked that we all stay around to cheer him in- as he would be one of the last.

Now usually after a race, those at the end of the group have very few spectators.  We runners (myself included) like to finish, eat, and get home.  I’ve been close to last in a race- my marathon- and it’s hard seeing sparse sidelines.  Sometimes it’s that crowd support at the end that gives a runner that push to finish strong.

Well, everyone decided that no plans were more important that cheering Irving into his last finish line.  I think close to every runner, stayed there as he shuffled in close to 1.5 hours after starting- the last person on the course- crying, accomplished, and out of breath.  I swear I saw him sprint to the end as we all yelled and cheered and wished him the very best.  There was not a dry eye around me- or maybe that was what I saw with my own blurry eyes.  Irving finished his final race so proud and humble, and will probably never forget that day or what running did for him.  And I will never forget that race. 

In a world where humanity seems to be depleting, the running world restores my faith in it.  Sure, it can be competitive, but in the end, we’re all there for eachother.  I ran in that race this year, and I stuck around- half hoping to see Irving round the corner.  He didn’t, of course, but many others did, and I cheered loud for them all.  Especially the Irving look-a-likes:)

So along with Paula, Irving, you are also my hero.  80 years old and finishing a 5 mile race like a champion.  Now there’s inpiration.


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