The sprint of youth leads to greater appreciation
The Kansas City Star
A tall, clean-cut, thin, young man ran effortlessly north on Main Street in midtown, past a health food store.
He moved at a good pace, each footfall poetic and graceful. It was beautiful to see him climb the hill toward Westport Road, where he turned and disappeared.
Watching him made me think of youth’s strength, agility and energy. We all experience it, but then before we can appreciate the physical gifts — respect, value and honor them — youth takes that last hill, rounds a corner and disappears.
The runner reminded me that Tuesday is my 57th birthday, and this year marks my 40th anniversary of running close to two miles a day, five days a week.
When I started running regardless of the weather, my mother, then 40 years old, used to ask, “Why are you doing all of that fool running?”
I couldn’t provide an acceptable answer. It just made me feel good.
Most people were just as puzzled as Mom, some pointing and laughing at my habit. Carole Archer, a friend from my student days at the University of Missouri-Columbia, understood. She said my running ages ago seemed effortless.
Carole wasn’t a runner. She died a few years ago after a long fight with cancer.
Last year I became a cancer survivor. After recovering from a prostatectomy I struggled to recapture the gift of being able to run. As human beings, we need physical activity and accompanying sweat.
It’s why everyone who’s able should walk the stairs instead of taking elevators, even though it goes against the American mantra: “Why walk when you can ride?” My response, especially to young people, is “take the stairs and live.”
Our body’s biggest demon is deterioration brought on by age, weight, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and other sedentary threats to our health.
It’s why U.S. presidents backed a program to promote physical fitness among youths. But decades later, we’re still trying to get overweight and obese young and old people, the majority of Americans, off their duffs to combat this national problem.
Too few are listening to First Lady Michelle Obama saying, “Let’s Move!”
Being physically fit has always mattered to me. Twenty years ago, a friend I jogged with quipped, “You run like you stole something.” My response was, “I have.”
I’ve stolen low blood pressure and good cholesterol when high blood pressure, hypertension, crushing stress and heart disease commonly afflict African Americans my age.
I’ve stolen better balance, agility and strength that lets me still lift and put into place a set of double ladders so I can do some painting, roofing and keep my gutters clean.
And I’ve stolen the ability to love the hottest Kansas City summers and hardly break a sweat.
I’m not as fast or as graceful running. My youth sprinted up a hill long ago, leaving me an aging would-be athlete panting and plodding behind.
But I still enjoy exercising and jogging outdoors in the mornings. I did it when I lived in the Northland, midtown, south Kansas City, downtown and now the Northeast area, picking up the sights and feel of each neighborhood.
Sure youth sprints away, taking with it the energy we once had and infinite sense of possibilities. But we pass our best time in the sun to our children.
Our responsibility is to jumpstart our kids with the same energy that we once possessed so that they will get off on the right foot and run like gazelles far past anything that we could have hoped to achieve.
As we watch them take those glorious hills, the inescapable hand of age and mortality presses more heavily on us.
The things we enjoyed in youth, we slowly surrender as we age.
We fight injuries more now but revel in new opportunities to plod up any hill. Each is a blessing further delaying youth’s last gasp before it turns a corner on us and vanishes.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.