This paper’s sister publication that also accompanies it in the morning, ran a front-page article on Thursday titled, “Middle-aged want to go the full distance”, starting with, “Visualize a 45-year old. The image that comes to your mind is that of a balding man who wears his paunch as proudly as his ability to knock back beers”. (Puhleez…beers? It’s only whiskey shots these days!)
The article then makes a big deal about the fact that more than 20% of those running in the marathon tomorrow are over the age of 45, as if 45 marks a cliff overlooking a deep, dark, yawning valley with no bottom. And then one 50-years old has been quoted saying “…50 is considered the new 40”, as if you can pull wool over what you are or behave like an ostrich with its head in the sand. I am proud to be 46 and don’t go around saying that 46 is the new 36 or whatever.
But why blame the 20-something writer, when the Mumbai Marathon organizers too leave no stone unturned when it comes to reminding us of our age! At 46, I am now a “Veteran”, a word that is emblazoned on my running bib, as if we are fogies who might suddenly collapse under the weight of our age and need to be labeled and identified so that we can be taken care of at the slightest sign of a problem. “Veteran” more or less sounds like “senior citizen”, a tag most people over 70 hate, except when it gets them discounts on airfares and in hospitals. “Veteran” gives us no such advantage except a label saying “I am old”.
I have never been fitter in my life. I ran over 100 km in December and can keep up with runners far younger than me. Running is the simplest exercise possible, far preferable to the evil treadmill…all you need is a pair of decent shoes and sometimes not even that and unless it’s raining or snowing, you can run virtually anytime, anywhere in the world, including the streets of Mumbai (early morning before the traffic hits).
And most of us in our 40s who run do so because of the gradual realization of our mortality and the need to be healthy and fit. In the 20s and 30s, “today” is the only important day and we tend to believe we are immortal. Slowly as people around us start falling sick or cease to exist, we realize the need to be healthy so that we can live the rest of our 40-50 years (yes, statistically, most of us will get to be 80) well, without being in a hospital or in bed or dependent on others.
Man was born to run. And perhaps the best way to stay disease-free is to do just that. It is a myth that running causes accelerated knee degeneration or spine problems (assuming of course that you run correctly). And while the older you are, the slower you get, when it comes to long distances and endurance running, amateurs who are 65 can do as well as amateurs in their 30s.
And so, the next time someone starts patronizing me about my age, I swear I will swing back Mr. Bachchan style and just say…”Buddhah Hoga…Tera Baap”
PS: The journalist cleverly stuck to describing only men in their 40s, since women in their 40s by and large take really good care of themselves and are thus hotter and more interesting than 20-somethings who may have tauter bodies that make necks turn, but are impossible to have any kind of meaningful conversation with!