The Body in Sport - Part 1

author : Scott Tinley
comments : 1

by Scott Tinley
   
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

           Scott Molina, arguably the greatest multi-sport athlete of the ‘80s, can still ride his bike swiftly, and could probably run under five minutes and change for the mile and still be able to get out of bed in the morning. Like our mutual contemporaries, Mark Allen and Dave Scott (both equally as fit after 50) Molina has enjoyed long periods of rest and recuperation; times when his body has needed to heal. I still run during these autumn days, albeit slowly. And I still dream of running swiftly again. I doubt I could run under five minutes for the mile but I'd bet the house on something under six. It comes with the temporal terrain for us; that constant march of the years carried in on the backs of long term use-abuse. I'm okay with it, I really am. Most days anyway. Back when running fast was important to me, if I couldn't or didn't achieve the speed, I'd get so mean that I could hurt my own feelings. I was a speed junkie and nothing short of a snappy, hurts-so-good workout would get me high.
           The great Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run under four minutes for the mile and Sports Illustrated Magazine's first Sportsman of the Year (1954), can't run anymore. He hasn't run since a car accident mangled his right ankle in 1975. But he's quite fine with that fact. Asked about his greatest contributions, the man whose barrier-breaking performance on May 6, 1954 launched more than a thousand sub-4 miles, claims that medicine--his research and contributions to the field of neurology--are what he counts as his life work. His body of knowledge and his body for four laps of the Iffley Road track constitute one of the great physical/intellectual contributions of any 20th century person.
           There are days I wish that I still had that addiction to work hard on my body, to feel my heels come up hard and quick on the third corner of smooth track, the wind and some unnamed thirst pushing me, the seconds ticking, that metallic taste in the back of my throat. That was real, I think. Now, I run slowly, measuring the time and distance from home in coffee spoons. Years from now, just before they pull the plug, I'd like to shuffle around the block; a decrepit walk/jog thing, so I can remember when...
           Speed is a funny thing; its relative nature affecting individuals in different ways. One man's thirty minute 10K is another woman's 9.6-second 100 yard dash. I don't like to drive a car fast, but cheek-bending acceleration? Now that's a rush. Once you've run fast, even for short periods of time, you can either spend the rest of your life trying to maintain some semblance of youthful quickness, or you can slowly let it go and get your jollies with the help of technology and its myriad of vehicles. Wheels can never replace shoes though ... that primal something in the sound of feet on earth.
           I love watching men and women in their 60s and 70s when they run quickly. There is a sense of hope that permeates the air and oxygen they transport in and out with so much effort at efficiency. It's almost like watching time travel; the years filling in behind them like hour-glassed sand. By moving quickly over land, these people have bent time, and made it their own as best as anyone can.
           For a life-long athlete, it seems unnatural to run faster as you grow older, the exception being many elite masters runners who don't even take up the sport until their late 20s. It's not only the age that counts, but the mileage as well. People like me who've been running for over forty years tend to wear out parts. Knees and hips and lower backs can be tuned up or rebuilt, but the replacement parts are never the same as the factory originals. And so, if we want to keep running, we do less of it; and we do it slower. Coffee spoons.
           There are some advantages to running slowly. Now, give me a minute here and I'll try to think of one. Oh yeah. You can run with more people. It's a demographic thing. You know all of us baby boomers are aging up and shedding parts along the way. That means that there are more slow runners now than there used to be--in theory anyway. My wife is older than I am and she has always run slowly, though there is no specific correlation. But we can run together now, at least on my better days when my hip is loose and my back isn't so tight. She has fewer miles on her than I do, and "aging very well," as they say. I am lucky. Go Team Advil.
           It is questionable whether you'll see more things when you run slowly. You cover less ground than at speed but tend to have more time to notice the little things around you--like the holes you used to bound over but now fall into. Of course, depending upon where you run, you may not want to see everything, choosing instead to move inside yourself where all the answer-solving thoughts take place while you run. That can happen at any speed. But you know that. Or should.
           Fast young runners who think they'll always be able to rip off a quick mile at will are letting a Trojan Horse into their mind. It's almost like the early anti-fitness party which touted the theory that the heart only possesses X amount of beats in its life, and any exercise would reduce your lifespan. With fast miles, that fixed amount, doled out like chips on a table, sends you home before the bigger pots later in the night.
           Biomechanics have much to do with your longevity/speed correlative: light, efficient and smooth animals tend to stay in the food chain longer than those whose fate was determined before they were hatched. Humans are no different. Boston Billy Rogers can still run a 2:40 marathon on any Sunday in his late 50s. Bo Jackson, who could lap little Boston Billy in the forty yard dash, is the proud owner of a plastic hip.
           I have mixed feelings about running slow. Having swallowed the poison in order to reconstitute it, that memory of watching the ground come up underneath me, the trail of eucalyptus passing my view as tall picket fences ... it all comes back. And I think if only I'd stretch more, did a little speed work. If only. Regret is a terrible thing, so I skip the antidote and let the poison of wear teach me acceptance.
           And the occasional guilt is worse: that stony heart behind the twin diseases of desire and regret. So on those rare and given days when all the stars are in sync with the ligaments, tendons and motives; and you have the option to step up the pace until you feel the pain and the pride; and you lust after feeling young and fast and virile; and all the possibilities come back to you in a sexualized sweet compelling suggestion--you just gotta' go. Just do it.
           That's a good day, and you damn well better seize it.



Scott Tinley won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California. 

 

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date: August 19, 2011

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Scott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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avatarScott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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