This morning, I had the pleasure of running my very first Turkey Trot. It was a lovely 30 degrees as I made my way to South Williamsport to run a 5K on the river walk. I was hoping to reach the finish in under 38 minutes. As I reached the straight stretch between Maynard Street bridge and Market Street bridge, I noticed a curly-haired older woman in jeans who was keeping pace with me. She would pass me, then take a walk break, and I would pass her. This continued until we climbed the final hill back to the start/finish line. I said to her “Wow, you’re really fit,” knowing that she was no spring chicken. She said “No, I’m really not” as we made our way to the last downhill. I picked up the pace into my final kick heading into the finish at a disappointing 39:41. When I looked at the leaderboard, I noticed that this woman had somehow also finished in 39:41, but I didn’t see her in the chute beside me.

“How’d ya do?” she said as we met after the race. “Not the time I wanted,” I said. I was amazed to find out this woman, named Karen, was 61 years old.  She almost beat me to the finish. And she walked away with a third place medal in her age group.

One thing I’ve noticed this year as I’ve done all sorts of races, is the number of senior citizens there are. I am always inspired by their presence. After all, I’ve been surrounded my whole life with older folks who have just given up on being physically active. Whether it’s due to arthritis, back pain, extra weight, or just lack of motivation, age can take its toll. There are others who say “I’m too old for this,” even though they are physically capable.

You know what? It’s never too late to start! You don’t have to be a runner, either. Walking does so many good things for your body, from easing depression to increasing your energy. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. Find it boring? Try a new location or get an MP3 player or an audio book.

One thing I’ve learned from being paralyzed at a young age is to never, EVER take my mobility for granted. If I can get up and walk (or run) without a wheelchair, there shouldn’t be anything stopping me from being active. I hope one day to be as fit as Karen when I am in my sixties. I hope to still be a triathlete in my seventies. And I hope to always be a testimony of what God’s healing power, and a little human willpower, can do.

Senior athletes…I salute you! And Karen…I know I’ll see you in another race somewhere. Maybe someday, I’ll beat you.

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