It occurs to me that since we've lived at our current house (something that occurred pretty much simultaneously with my leaving the Royal Navy), I have become a creature of habit. Nothing dramatic, because I have a fairly chaotic nature and have to work hard to keep things on the straight and narrow, I'm talking about getting to work at a particular time, having a cuppa at a particular time of the day, getting up early to go swimming etc.
Well, on those mornings I go swimming (Mon/Weds/Fri) I'm usually out of the house at about 0620 and you tend to see the same people out and about, particularly as I head to my swimming pool via the centre of town .... I'm talking about other runners here of course. Over the years we've had the Retired Army Officer, the Librarian, Mr Bowlegged, Miss HugeArse, Mrs Beercoat and the most notable, the Ancient Runner. The "Ancient Runner" is an elderly gentleman who has been an absolutely consistent feature of my mornings over the past 8 years or so, he really is getting on a bit and I would estimate that he's in his early 90s now. I always see him coming back up the road as I'm driving into town and he inevitably wears the same kit: shapeless black baggy shorts (way too big for him) and a stripey sports shirt of the sort your granddad would wear (like a polo shirt), open at the collar and flapping on his skinny arms. Until recently, his only concession to the cold was an enormous pair of black motorcycle gauntlets, however this year I've noticed he has taken to wearing a tatty old red fleece, the old boy is obviously feeling the cold.
He moves painfully slowly, his running pace is slower than most people's walking pace, his hunched back and scrawny neck accentuate the look of desperation that seems to be fixed to his face. If I'm a bit late and he's reached the junction that leads to his house, he slows (!) and walks home. I've seen him plodding down that road in all sorts of horrible weather, he's out there no matter what and it always looks like he's about to keel over from the effort.
My heart goes out to this old gent. Nobody wants to grow old and he's doing his best to maintain his fitness and keep himself healthy, despite his advancing years. He does his training early and in private, nobody but the early birds are privy to his efforts. I wonder if that's how I'll end up? Desperately trying to keep Father Time at bay, dragging my knackered body out of bed to crawl up and down a miniscule circuit at a snail's pace. I really admire him, I know he hasn't given up.
And there's the lesson really and something I have to keep reminding myself about. It's really important not to give up.