Marathons are the New Mid-Life Crisis

“Adam and Eve had their midlife crisis when they realized they were older than sin.”
–Jonathan Edward Caldwell (and your new corny joke for the day)

Black balloons.  Signs printed with “Over the Hill!”  An outdated picture of yourself in the newspaper with the caption, “Lordy, Lordy, look who’s 40!!”  This is the way our parents passed the 40th birthday milestone.  Just a few decades ago, turning 40 meant it was time to pack it all in, let the gray show and wait for the grandbabies.

No more, friends.  Now, 40 is FABULOUS and more of a reason than ever to fight back against aging.  Even the mid-life crisis has undergone a facelift.  Maybe it’s because we’re all in denial that 40 could actually be the middle of our lives?  But, as Karen Carpenter sang, “we’ve only just beguuuuuuun…to LIVE!”  How else to explain that the former idea of a mid-life crisis: a man buying a ridiculous sports car and taking up with a woman half his age, has been replaced with something entirely opposite:  extreme fitness.  Also important to note: it wasn’t that long ago that women simply weren’t allowed the luxury of a mid-life crisis.  Ladies just had to down a Prozac and a martini and push past it.  I guess some things never go out of fashion.


Isn’t it just so ironic?  So many of us spent our 20’s, the physical prime of our lives, systematically destroying our bodies with beer and pizza and late nights and bad decisions.  And now that things are starting to fall apart, we expect our bodies to rise up and give the performance of a lifetime.  It only took us half a lifetime to realize that all that talk about vegetables and daily exercise was actually really good advice.

But for some people, the pendulum has swung WAY over to the other side.  It’s not enough to just add daily exercise and healthy eating into the mix.  Extreme fitness is becoming the new addiction for the nearing- and crossing-40 set.  So, why are so many people trading their Porsches for protein shakes?  What about all the training for months on end to go to a perfectly lovely vacation spot for the sole purpose of running?  ALL DAY?  Why are soccer moms hefting tractor tires across an abandoned warehouse when they should be planning their next spa trip to Arizona?

I’ve taken a very scientific poll of exactly myself, and here are the answers to these burning questions:

1.  Bob from Accounting is a schmuck.
But you know what?  He’s also got an IronMan tattoo on his calf and all these different numbered stickers on the back of his car.  WHA???  Bob did an IronMan??  But he’s such a schmuck!  And this gets you to thinking…  If Bob the Schmuck is an IronMan, I can surely run a marathon, right?  Right.  And so now you’re dropping $15K to take your family to Disney for a week and wearing mouse ears while you run ALL DAY.

Who’s the schmuck now?

2.  You’re trying to cheat death.
Your body is hard wired to run from the Grim Reaper.  If we were cavemen, we would be dead and forgotten by now.  Further proof?  The Western Expansion was not that long ago.  How many 40 year olds do you think made it on the Oregon Trail?  (Umm, by the way, did you know that there’s an Oregon Trail App?  Careful…a “Wagon of Cash” is $49.99; no word yet on how much the cure for dysentery costs.)  It was nothing in those days for your heartless, pragmatic grandkids to leave your ass on the trail because you’re slowing them down.  Really, it only makes sense to train your body to be able to run all day, or carry wagon wheels (tractor tires).  Those are skills that may have saved your life (if only to later die from dysentery).

 Both these women are 32 years old.  Florence Thompson is on the left, in a photo taken in 1930.  Kate Moss is on the right, sometime in the mid-90’s.  The times, they are a-changing, (but denim is always a good choice).


3.  You’re Cheating on Your Spouse.
Stop me if you’re heard this one before.  Woman gets married and has a few kids.  Woman decides it’s time to get her life and body back on track.  Woman goes to gym and gets a trainer.  A young, male, fit trainer.  Woman and young, male, fit trainer are found in a very compromising position in the sauna.  Hey, it only becomes a cliché when it happens over and over.

4.  You’re NOT Cheating on Your Spouse.
But you don’t want to go home.  It’s the end of a long, hard day at work, but there’s still plenty of long, hard day left at home.  How can you get out of going back there and having to pitch in during the “witching hour?”  Wait!  What if you had to do something that’s on your “bucket list,” something that’s healthy, self-affirming and life-changing and makes you a better person overall?  No one could argue with that, right?

Stay-at-home parents and caregivers, take heart.  Your care partners recognize how hard your day is and they’d rather run until their feet bleed or throw heavy ropes around until they throw up than come home and do your job.  Carry on, warrior.

5.  You’re Cheating on Your Diet
Remember that bit about how if you were a caveman you’d be dead by now?  That’s partly because your tribe would have started denying you food about the time you turned 25. Evolution has streamlined your system to run off nothing but bird bones and partially digested nuts and seeds.  Sure, it’s efficient, but it also means that if you take your meals anywhere other than beneath your bird feeder, you’re going to end up with some excess jiggle.  And the jiggle is there to stay.  Incidentally, do you remember what a good friend your metabolism was back in your 20’s?  Kinda makes you wish you hadn’t been such a jerk to it, and maybe it wouldn’t be holding such a grudge.  My friends and I could decide to tone up for Spring Break maybe 3-4 weeks ahead of time.  That’s including 1.5 weeks worth of bitching and moaning about how fat we are, and can we just order a pizza, I promise this is the last one, and I mean, what are carbs anyway, and when are we going to find time to exercise, ok 9:00 pm works for me, and does your card key work at the gym and this is so HARD.  Then we’d do the Cindy Crawford workout video 5 times and we were READY.  Let’s order a pizza to celebrate!  Now, if I just give a somewhat meaningful glance to a Pop Tart, my jeans won’t button.  Ergo, you’re running to eat.  You’re literally running for your life.

6.  You need something to post on Facebook.
Seriously?  Map My Run?  Stop being a schmuck.

7.  It’s Now or Never.
You might be on to something here.  As much as we’re all laughing about our new aches and pains and various deficiencies, that’s just it: we’re laughing.  Soon, it’s not going to be so funny.  If you’ve made it this far, you know that chances to do great things don’t just keep presenting themselves.  (However, chances to do crappy stuff come up all the time.  Why is that?)

This guy wishes he could stop running, but he just really loves wine and Oreos.

old marathoner

Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathoner, at 101.

I’m not 40 yet, but it’s so close I can taste it.  I currently have ZERO desire to run a marathon and I only exercise in climate controlled venues (and often while watching TV or reading a book).  But I’ve gone back on so many “I will never, ever” statements that I can’t say that once my odometer turns over that I won’t also get the urge to undertake some extreme fitness.

And if I do, I’m totally getting a sweat turban like Fauja’s.


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