Marathon & Beyond  is a bimonthly delight, each volume a small book's worth of anecdotes and ideas --- and not just about distance running. The January/February 2005 issue includes an article full of wisdom by Paul Reese with the grim title "Coping with the Inevitable". It is subtitled, bluntly, "Aging and Diminished Physical Capacity are Part of Life. We Need to Work Around Them."
Reese interviews several strong fellow runners who have had to stop because of heart attacks, cancer, or major injuries. They analyze the changes they've experienced, the blows to their self-esteem, the falling-back and regrouping that they've had to undertake. Young athletes won't appreciate it, but the same inexorable laws of nature apply to them as to the rest of us. Paul writes of his own recent encounter with harsh reality:
Reflecting on 40 years of running and racing, I've come to the realization that the most important consideration about running is not how fast you can run, not how far you can run, but rather, the degree and manner in which running and racing enhance your life. That is the sum and substance of the worth of running. Having said that, I would venture to guess that very few runners either think or dwell on such enhancement. Their energies, their thoughts, are directed to times, PRs, races, mileage, gear, and the eternal search for the perfect shoe. I plead guilty to having done much of that when I was competing. Maybe the realization and appreciation of enhancement dawn only after a person has suffered the loss of running and racing. While active, we're just too damned obsessed with the inconsequential to recognize how privileged we are, how running and racing enhance our lives. One thing for sure, if you lose running and racing, you had better be able to devise ways to compensate because you will have a huge void to fill when you come to realize how running enhanced your life.
And the same applies to all human beings, whatever their paths may be in pursuit of meaning. No good thing lasts forever. What counts is not what you've done, or where you've been --- but what you do next, and where you are now.
Reese died on 6 Nov 2004, from complications after heart surgery. He was 87 years old. In 1990, when he was "only" 73, he ran across the United States: 3192 miles in 124 days, roughly a marathon per day.
R.I.P. Paul Reese --- for the long run ...