Easily the most compelling reason for me to sign up for the NYRR Al Gordon 4M this year was its course in Prospect Park, less than a mile from my apartment. I can lace up my running shoes and be in my corral within 20 minutes, all warmed up and ready to race. I can practice my commitment to sustainability and not check a disposable bag, because I’ll be cooling down on my return home. Since I am often working events that require a lengthy subway commute, it’s nice to have this one close to home -- especially when it’s 30 degrees out.
But I confess I did not know much about the race’s namesake when I signed up, and I decided that since I was going to represent New York Road Runners today, I should learn his story. And what an inspiration I found when I did some research.
Al Gordon, who had a thriving career on Wall Street for more than 80 years (yes, you read that right), was 107 when he died in 2009. He ran for Harvard University in the early 1920s, and maintained a lifelong commitment towards physical fitness and credited it with his longevity. In his 80s, he started running marathons. At 105, he still walked four times a week.
Running is not just a sport for the young and fast (props to you, though, if you are young and fast). It is a lifetime sport. And if you want to do it for a lifetime, remember who won that fabled race between the tortoise and the hare.
I did not run with any seriousness or consistency until my early 30s, a decade ago. My only experience with running until that point was the dreaded Presidential Physical Fitness Test that any kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s will remember as the day we all wished we had remembered to call out sick. Part of the regime involved a mile run. I would slog along my school’s bright blue track, watching faster girls whip by, listening to my PE teacher yell at me to pick up my feet, imagining ever-more-creative ends to the torture. A fire drill, a plague of locusts, an asteroid. (Yes, my commitment to color and detail is why I became a writer, thank you.)
What Al Gordon knew, that I did not, is that, much like Wall Street, running is a long game. When I did embrace running, I had decided to train for a half-marathon, and I found I loved long runs at slower, steady paces. I’m not a sprinter and I never will be, but I’m a pretty decent distance runner. My goals now are longer-term than dragging myself off the track to make the bell before next period; I want to be healthy as I age, and I want to encourage my son to be healthy by watching me. Most importantly, I find running enjoyable now that I found the running that works for me. And that is the legacy of Al Gordon: Find what works for you, and do it for life.
That finish line flex 💪🏼 The @nyrr #AlGordon4M was a challenge (Battle Pass Hill, will I ever conquer you??? More recovery runs in order...) but I got it done. I rarely say I regret anything, but I must confess I do regret not having raced more post-marathon season. Maybe I wouldn't have PR'd, but it would have held me accountable with respect to maintaining and improving my fitness. Shoulda woulda coulda. Lesson learned. On to the Washington Heights Shamrock 5k next weekend!
Today’s Al Gordon run was my first long run leading into a spring half-marathon. It was a great way to kick off that training, on a familiar course in my home borough. I finished with 4,737 of my closest friends, who ranged in age from 8 to 86, on the same path where I ran my first miles. As I chugged up the long hill at the start and around the lake at the bottom, I said a quiet thanks to Mr. Gordon. It was a beautiful morning to remember why I still run.