On Monday October 8, I ran the Huntsman World Senior Games 10k from Snow Canyon Park to the city park in Ivins, Utah (near St. George). Over 11,000 seniors (ages 50-almost 100) participate in the Games during the next two weeks in almost every sport imaginable, from running to swimming to tennis to basketball to archery to pickleball to table tennis and many more. The top winners qualify to participate in the biennial National Senior Games (next year in Albuquerque, New Mexico).
This was my first time being a participant and joining 80 of my peers from around the country to run this 10k course and to defy the concept of aging in America. I was nervous. Why, my husband asks? It's only a run in the desert. True, enough, but I'd been dreaming about it for months.
My personal training didn’t go as planned: inflamed sciatic nerve meant less training—and no speed work for most of three months; stitches in my right arm for deep cut followed by two and a half inch skin tear on right hand both interrupted running and my go-to cross-training, swimming; and our wonderful trip to Peru meant no running for two weeks. Needless to say, I was less prepared than I’d hoped and was very anxious.
The course was gorgeous, though, as the picture of part of Snow Canyon attests. Early morning in the desert, a few clouds, 80 runners gathered for the start, chatting, so friendly. We expected a fast, an all-downhill course into town. We went out quickly, then were surprised by several roller uphills through the canyon. I was trying to chase—and pass—several women in my age group (my secret goal to place first in 65-69 women) but was quickly losing sight of them.
I wanted this so badly: I pushed and sucked in my doubts and passed one of them while the other pulled ahead. And then we encountered a half mile out and back segment—uphill and strong cross winds. I tried not to stop but had to catch my breath several times, the lack of speed work catching up with me. I passed the second age grouper and saw mileage sign number four. The course volunteers were cheering us to the final two miles. Why is this so hard? Of course I can do two miles, but the reality was that the fast first miles and efforts to catch my compatriots impacted me.
I could see the finish line a half mile ahead on the distance, easy, right? Except there was a slight rise in the road (and at this point, ANY uphill was a curse) and the cross winds becoming 15 mph headwinds. I was dying as my pace slowed considerably and then, unbelievably I heard the announcer calling my name!
I did it! First place age group and fourth woman overall. Slower than I’d hoped (51:13 or average 8:13 pace, but the two 7:50 minute/miles on the down hills helped, thank goodness); maybe not bad for (gulp) 67 years old. I qualified for the National Senior Games for 2019, my ultimate goal for this race, where I might see some runner friends and acquaintances from around the country.
The Huntsman World Senior Games (as do the annual and biennial senior games throughout the country) confirm the value of community and activity to inspire and to connect. I wish I’d had the opportunity to be better prepared, but my body has its own agenda. Needless to say, I already have my goals for the National Senior Games next summer in Albuquerque.
My sister refuted my disavowing being a “runner,” instead paying me the highest compliment: our father, the consummate athlete, coach, mentor, teacher, would have been proud of my accomplishment and certainly would have considered me an athlete. My husband is my biggest supportive, even when he couldn’t run his own marathon a few days before due to injuries. My younger son said I’m a winner regardless of time/place. My older son said I look strong. I guess I need better perspective on this sport that brings me such joy along with such pain and frustration.