Friday, March 6, 2020

As a Former Ultra-endurance Runner, I Know To Stay in Retirement.

A co-worker who knows that in November 2016 I retired from ultra-endurance running recently asked me if I would ever consider another run across a state or country. My response was quick and confident -- "No." My support stroller is stored away in the attic and I no longer feel the need to pound my body into the ground milepost after milepost. People can go to if they wish to read about -- or view videos/photos about -- my running adventures. Yes, I am permanently retired from crossing states and countries on my feet. In the 3+ years since I hung up my running shoes and packed the stroller away, I have not had any thoughts about coming out of retirement to do another extreme running endeavor.

There are many athletes who retire but feel the need to come back and try and relive their glory days. Some believe that they can come back better than ever, completely ignoring their age and/or any physical decline in strength or endurance. Why is it that some athletes cannot stay retired from a sport that they excelled at? Some miss the attention. For many, attention and identity become nearly inseparable. In other words, the sport defines who they are and the attention they receive from doing that sport is incredibly important in their lives. Once the athlete is no longer doing his or her sport, they are no longer being discussed and slowly fade away from the spotlight. For many athletes, that's a tough pill to swallow.

Some miss the athletic challenge... the competition or obstacle to be overcome. They miss having to dig deep within themselves to try and bring out their best performance. They want to be in the game, not on the sidelines. However, too often they don't realize that their performance is declining with age, even though their heart for the sport may be as strong as ever.

There are other athletes who miss the team environment and the camaraderie. For solo endurance athletes, it's a different story. Some may miss pushing themselves all alone, or being that person in their friend group who is 'different' because their morning starts with a 15-mile run before work. Some athletes fear that if they retire, they'll lose their identity as an athlete -- and by extension, the identity of the person they are. The fact is that we've all seen professional athletes who have come out of retirement only to have performances that are far below what they once were capable of. As a result, that is the world's last view of that athlete. There are those who know when to retire -- some at the top of their game. Some retire due to personal reasons... perhaps marriage or family concerns that they decide are more important than sport. Some retire due to fatigue, injury and burn out. There are many reasons why athletes retire from a sport that they once did.

Personally, I don't feel the need to push my body to the extremes I once did by running more than a marathon every day while pushing 70+ pounds of gear, food and water into the horizon. I accomplished what I needed to during that particular season of my life, and I am content with that.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso