For most of my life, I was an athlete—of sorts. Not an elite one. Not a pro or an Olympian, but a devoted player. In high school, I was the scrappy point guard of a team that didn't win much. In college, I quarterbacked a flag football team that did. And in my 20s and 30s, I played Ultimate Frisbee, a nerdy, speedy game that moves like soccer and scores like football.
By age 38, I had to turn in my cleats. My sprinting years were behind me. My knees were finished. But the old athlete in me would not die; I still yearned for the taste of mud and sweat. My water aerobics years were (hopefully) years away. I needed an adventure fix, a game to play, an excuse to leave it all on the field.
Which is the only possible explanation for why I let my husband sign us up for a crazy three-mile foot race called the Warrior Dash, rife with boot-camp obstacles, fire, and rivers of mud. And costumes.
It all started when the Insanity DVDs arrived in the mail. The idea was to turn our bodies into ripped steel in time for the race. On a Monday morning two months after my 40th birthday, we laced up our sneakers and naively slid DVD #1 into a laptop.
The Insanity workouts were, in a word, insane. They made us dry heave and curse, and they solidified us, for sure. They prepared us very well to perform more Insanity workouts. But the Warrior Dash was another story. Nothing can prepare you for that.
The Warrior Dash is a gauntlet of Marine-style barriers that snakes three-ish miles through some rural hellscape. On race day, we mustered beneath a cruel Southern sun amidst a seething barbaric horde. Our fellow racers wore Braveheart tartans, superhero underoos, Mad Max pleatherwear, candy-colored tutus. We wore sequins—and by the end, a head-to-toe coating of mud.
A half-hour later, we staggered across the finish line onto a vast plain of assorted soldiery, crying out in full-throated exultation, swilling tankards of beer. We were battle-weary and bruised. Filthy. And wild with adrenaline-fueled, youthful exhilaration.
And I realized: I'm not ready for retirement just yet.
I may not do any more Warrior Dashes. But walking the Camino de Santiago, or urban hiking across my home city, or putting in an afternoon on the yoga mat—these things give me what I long for: that leave-it-all-on-the-field feeling, all skinned knees and burning lungs.
It’s really about moving your body, using it, pushing yourself to try something hard—at whatever level of intensity an aging body will permit, with somebody whose company you enjoy. That's what yoga is for me: the thrill of exertion, the ache of muscles, the camaraderie of fellow yogis—all of us pushing hard to live our best lives.
I'll see you there.