Well, I’m heading to the City of Champions this weekend to run the half marathon on Sunday. And I’m looking forward to the 13.1-mile self-directed tour of the city. I enjoy the crowds, noise and excitement.
I’m also thankful that I still have a good shot at doing this — and I guess just getting to the starting line is somewhat of an accomplishment given that two years ago I figured my long-distance running days were over because of a mutant nerve in my left foot.
The mutant nerve is still there. I’m reminded of it every time my foot hits the concrete. But hey. There are worse things. I could be locked in a room and be forced to watch repeats of the GOP debates. Just sayin’.
And I guess the long runs are a modest attempt to delay the realities of getting older — even as the runs become at more difficult and the times noticeably slower. [Note to self: No point wearing your running watch. It just adds unnecessary weight without serving any useful purpose.]
As a post-60 runner, I’m not alone. Here’s from the NYT:
Masters runners and, in particular, those 60 and older are the fastest-growing group in the sport, according to most statistics. A recent study of the New York City Marathon from 1980 to 2009, for example, found that “the percent of finishers younger than 40 years significantly decreased, while the percent of masters runners significantly increased for both males and females,” said Romuald Lepers, a professor of sports sciences at the University of Burgundy in France who, with his colleague Thomas Cattagni, conducted the study.
So I’ll be out there Sunday morning among the thousands of other runners for at least one more time.
And at around mile five we go past the Shamrock Inn on the North Side where my friend and college roommate Tom Kollar and I used to spend Sunday mornings years ago drinking beer and reviewing strategy prior to heading to Three Rivers Stadium (now defunct) for the Steelers game.
I’ll try to avoid the temptation to make a quick detour to the bar.
I know that for most pajama-clad citizen journalists like me it’s fashionable to be critical. You know. Scan the newspapers (dead-tree or online), blogs, online news sites and so on and then opine — generally with a negative slant. Not today. Today I am writing about Laing Kennedy who is retiring in June as Kent State’s director of athletics. And Kennedy is leaving at the top of his game, a model for someone who can succeed with a college sports program without compromising his integrity.
Tom Gaffney has an excellent article about Kennedy and his accomplishments in this morning’s Akron Beacon Journal. Quite simply, Kennedy led a program with significant achievement when it came to athletics — and even more so with the emphasis that he placed on educational attainment.
During my years at Kent State, I only met Kennedy once. I was organizing an annual event that attracts people from the university and the community, the Bowman Breakfast. And Kennedy was the speaker. So I had some limited contact with him before, during and after the event. I was very impressed with his enthusiasm — and his dedication to the university and the Kent community.
But before that breakfast, what impressed me about Kennedy was his ability and willingness to help students — and not just those on a sports scholarship. When I was working with students at the university’s student-run PR firm Flash Communications, many times students needed to contact Kennedy for information about a story or for a comment. He was always available. Always took their calls or returned them as quickly as possible. And he was gracious with his time and understanding of how much the student wanted to do a good job but needed some assistance.
Gee, sounds like a good teacher — and mentor. Somewhat surprisingly, many professors and college administrators (not just at Kent State but most everywhere) aren’t like that. Imagine that.
We need more people like Laing Kennedy who understand that education is basically about helping students succeed. And if you can add some winning sports teams to the mix while maintaining your integrity — then so much the better.