The following is a brief profile of one of the athletes I interviewed for my upcoming book, “Lessons for a Strong, Healthy Life from 50 Athletes Over 50.” To get an email update for future posts, subscribe on this site.
Suzy Devers is a 57 year old ice and in-line speed skater, who lives in Louisville, Colorado, but grew up on the East coast where she ice skated from age 5 with her sisters and father. Suzy played other sports through the years, and in her 30’s began in-line skating for fun and exercise. Suzy’s love for ice skating re-emerged at age 52, and had her looking for a pair of speed skates for ice. It was hard to find equipment for ice skating in Colorado, and her quest put her in touch with a skating coach in Boulder, Colorado. The rest is history, and she went onto race in-line skates on the road, indoors, and on a banked track; as well as ice, at a multitude of distances.
Suzy loves the variety of the various forms of skating she does. She also loves how it connects her with the fond memories of skating when she was a child.
This past week I reconnected with my runner-self. My current active passion is rock climbing, but I was a competitive runner for many years. This past week, I was visiting my family in New York, where climbing was not accessible, but running was. I ran several times to help get my blood flowing and get in a some sort of workout. My first day in New York, I ran a four mile loop around Collin’s Park; a run that I had probably done 1000 times. When I started, my lungs and legs rejoiced in the oxygen rich air of sea level. I felt as if I was ticking off six minute miles, just like I used to, but I knew I was probably running much slower. Regardless, I felt great. I charged up the hill at the back of the lake, floated over the turtle backed roads and uneven slate sidewalks, with visions of the runner I used to be flashing through my mind’s eye.
As I ran through the neighborhoods of my youth, I reflected on the denim and flannel town that taught me so much. It is where my family, friends, teammates, teachers, and coaches lived. It’s also where I grew to know so many people.
As fatigue began to grow, starting in my feet and traveling up my legs, to eventually engulf most of my body, I began to consider stopping to see some people I used to know. While it would be nice and give my body a chance to recover, I realized that I am now an outsider, looking in. Knocking on their door would be like intruding on their life, to just end up running away again. So, I kept on running, passing cats in windows, new buildings, and houses that differed in my memory only in the color of their paint.
As I rounded a corner and headed down Sacandaga road, the road I used to walk every day as I went to high school, fatigue began to retreat, and my legs regained their spring. I felt again the runner I was. I passed the house I grew up in, which is in much better shape than when I moved out. I thought it ironic that my old house was in better shape, while I was in worse shape. The run completed, I relished the sweaty afterglow.
A few days later, I ran again up in Northville, New York. When I finished that run, I thought about how running was my first active love. I thought how the past couple runs reconnected me with my first love. It reminded me of that photograph we all might have in the basement, packed away in a box, of our first girlfriend or boyfriend. One that probably looks nothing like them today; one that might be crumpled and faded, but that when we see it, reminds us of the cool feeling of a first love. While I can’t be the runner I was, I can still connect with what it was like to experience that first active love.