One of the very few privileges associated with getting older and slower is that we tend to care less about what other runners might think about us.
The symptoms are all around us if you can bear to look.
You’ll spot older runners in outfits that Coco the clown has plainly rejected because they’re simply too colourful. You might even see elderly athletes applying generous amounts of lubrication to intimate body parts in a manner that would gladden the heart of any Ann Summers fan. On one highly-memorable occasion, I personally observed a runner dressed in heavy overcoat and brogues and matching them with the briefest and most revealing of short shorts exposing acres of hairy white quivering flesh while queuing up in a fast-food restaurant in Tuam.
If the police weren’t called that day, I have no idea why not.
This freedom to behave just as we like is exercised mostly, but not exclusively, as a male privilege. More than once I’ve had to execute a hasty volte-face upon unexpectedly discovering a pasty white female arse – not quite hidden by the undergrowth – whose owner was seemingly intent on avoiding last-minute queues for the portaloos.
I’m not entirely sure where all this comes from. Whether it’s the case that we genuinely tend to care less what others think about us, or that we just don’t notice how eccentric we’ve become, I’m not certain. Another possibility, I suppose, is that we have shed some of the self-obsession and the desperate need to ‘fit in’ that plague us all when we’re young. I’d like to believe that it’s mainly the first of these options – that we de-stress a little as we learn a little about how the world works – and that it dawns on us that all of this is temporary anyway.
For my own part, I’ve got a little bit of room for improvement yet. There are still some things that bother me which I shouldn’t even notice.
My plan is to quietly freak-out as many people as possible over the next while. This process feeds on itself after all. If I can manage to upset a few ‘apple-tarts’ without getting arrested, infected or illegally married, then I’m probably on the right track.
I’ll leave the last word to Jenny Joseph below. I think we’re on the same track, but she says it so much better than I do.
When I Am Old – Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!