As I’ve mentioned in this column before, I’m going to be turning 40 this year. This is a significant age in my estimation, one that marks the passage of youth. At 40 no one is ever referred to as the young guy or kid. At 40 our bodies are now beginning to accelerate in their decay. At 40 you’ve become what you are, no one talks about when they grow up or when they get older. So 40 is a pretty important milestone in my opinion.

Like most people I know , I spent most of the 30s atoning for the sins of my youth. I had developed a lot of bad habits to change and a lot of discipline that I had never developed. So, even though I gave up smoking and drinking (and anything that may have been included in some college nights!) my body has started to look like a typical 40 year old’s body. Gone was the six pack I use to have, the V shape and the curves of a well muscled body, replaced with a layer of fat around my middle, some hair growth that was never present before and a weakening physical condition. This is not the person I see when I think of myself in my head.

As a youngster I worked out every day religiously. I kept charts on what body parts I was working out and the results, I read muscle and fitness magazines and drank strange potions guaranteed to add mass and muscle. In college I drank a lot of alcohol, stopped all forms of physical activity and developed a strong distaste for anything resembling health food. Combine the decaying body of someone that used to be in peak physical shape with the beer gut of a fast food junkie that loved Jack Daniels and you end up with a body shape resembling with what I now walk.

So, I’ve been looking for some way that would both mark the passing of the folly of my youth and usher in this new phase of my life. Since I’ve been unhappy with the continual decline of my physical shape I decided that I should do something that might reverse or at the very least slow down this decline. My birthday is in the middle of September, as it happens, the Pittsburgh Great Race is the last day of September. It’s a 10K or 5K race. I’ve decided that I’ll be participating in the 5K race. It’s not as far fetched as it seems. I was a really good wrestler, a pole vaulter and did both single races and was a member of the relay race team for the high school track team. I think I’m up for the challenge. That being said, I have a lot of work to do.

Pittsburgh is a city of hills. If you’ve never been here you’d be amazed at the amount of hills we have. We’re not San Francisco but trust me, Kansas would be shocked. I haven’t plotted out the race yet but it’s a guarantee that at some point I’ll be forced to run up a hill. I’m not looking forward to that, in fact, when I even think about it in my head I regret my decision. When discussing this decision with my family Jack , using all the wisdom of his seven years said, “daddy, you’re going to have to start eating a lot better.” It’s probably safe to say I have my work cut out for me.

Over the next several months I’ll be getting ready for the race. First thing will be buying a pair of tennis shoes. If you don’t know me then you aren’t aware that I wear engineer boots for 55% of my time awake, 43% of the remaining time is spent in dress shoes at work, whatever time is left I spend either in socks or the one pair of tennis shoes I have that are much more skaterish than anything resembling a running shoe. Next will be getting a few pair of shorts I can run in, sadly I’m pretty sure I don’t have those either. Luckily my legs are still in great shape. I’m confident that the tattoos on my calves are going to look amazing when I sweat. About the only thing I have is a steely determination to do this. Beginning next week I’ll start altering my diet and running every morning. I expect to hate it. I hope though that I’ll begin to more closely resemble the image I see in my head when I close my eyes. I’m about 80% sure I won’t have a heart attack. I’ve got 5 months to train and get ready. I’ll update you on my progress, be sure to check back, I’m sure it will be good for at least a laugh.

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