Mulhall column: Running in the AARP years

Mitch Mulhall

It’s fair to say I’ve never been particularly serious about running, though I’ve Gumped plenty over the years.

There was a time I’d work a shift at Mid-Continent, workout on free weights for an hour, and run from the Hotel Colorado to Noname Bridge and back — all before dinner.

I don’t write much about sports, but there are a few things I can say about running.

For one, it’s very metric.

It’s never been clear to me why, but you describe and measure running events — and athletic events generally — in kilometers, unless, of course, it’s a marathon or a half-marathon. If you stated the distance of either in kilometers, most Americans wouldn’t willingly participate.

Maybe it’s a Boomer characteristic that distances only make sense in mileage.

Last Sunday, for example, I ran a 4K animal shelter benefit hosted by PI sports columnist Mike Vidakovich. The ratio of km to mileage is about 0.62, which makes a 4K a little less than 2.5 miles.

Yes, I googled it.

Lately I run about 5.67 miles — from my front door to the Mitchell Creek trail head and back. It might be more impressive if not downright erudite to say 9.1 kilometers, but no matter how I put it, it’s the same.

Maybe making distance seem longer is what the metric system is all about.

For me, running is at its best when I compete on the field of self-improvement.

On the big bell curve of running performance, I’m solidly ensconced somewhere among the page 3 finishers. My participation pretty much guarantees that someone can walk away from an event head-held-high saying, “At least I beat that guy.”

And that’s just fine by me.

Real runners like Vidakovich, Josh Hejtmanek and Rick Chavez can joust for asphalt scorching times while I chug along in four-wheel low.

The guy I’m interested in defeating is the sloth who occupies my easy chair and turned our 1.5-year COVID-19 quarantine into permission to test the circumference of the human waistline.

Another truth I’ve found about running is that gravity is your friend.

That Mitchell Creek downhill can at least make me feel a bit more like Steve Prefontaine than a Willy’s Jeep. Of course, to enjoy the downhill, you must first make the climb.

But not always.

My wife and I once ran a half-marathon named “The Slacker” for the fact that it starts at the 10,800-foot parking lot at Loveland Ski Area and ends in Georgetown. That’s a 2,270-foot elevation loss in 13.1 miles.

As anyone who has driven from Eisenhower Tunnel to Georgetown can attest, the gas pedal is largely optional. Roll anything off the east side of the Continental Divide and chances are it may eventually end up somewhere along the South Platte River.

So it is for me. It’s all good until the grade turns positive.

Which brings me to a third observation: age keys you in on new noises.

No matter how much running experience you may have, there is a hard-to-pin-down point in life after which almost everything you think you know about your body warrants revision.

“Where is that noise coming from?” has become the mantra of my days.

Sometimes it’s something mechanical — maybe the way the sole of my left shoe smacks the pavement, or the crinkle of a pebble rolling under my stealthy, low-profile shuffle.

But don’t think for a second these noises all come during a run. Most don’t.

One moment I’m watching the NCAA basketball tournament and the next my right knee is cracking like a bat in spring training. These days any time is the right time for a symphony of skeletal percussion.

To be sure, there may come a day when running becomes too heavy a lift. I try not to dwell on the future. Today, however, I can overlook the vagaries of the metric distances, mediocrity and bodily noises that come with running in the AARP marketing years.

That said, running at this time in life probably isn’t for everyone. It just keeps my shorts loose, and I like that.

Oh, and by the way, there is one other benefit of running that I would be remiss not to point out: It feels great to stop.

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at

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