The other day I heard someone say she was feeling nervous about entering her forties. As someone who has been there for six years I can honestly say there is nothing to be afraid of, as long as you choose to make the most of it. What I have found in my forties is that I care less about what other people think and more about what makes me happy. I’m less self conscious and more adventurous. I think less of what I can’t do and focus more on what I can do.
The proof is in what I am choosing to do with my time. It started when I was 42 and I took up running, having never run before. Then I started entering races, despite being someone who has always dreaded the nerves that go along with competition. Last year I took swimming lessons when I had barely been in the water for decades. Last fall, as my kids grew more and more enthusiastic about orienteering I decided to give it a try too. I kept going with it this spring and now the entire family will be heading to the Maritimes to take part in the Canadian Orienteering Championships. (By the way, there are no qualifications to enter the Championships, hence the reason I can take part!). When registering I had a choice between the Open classes and the Competitive classes. My instinct said go Open. My 20 year old or 30 year old self certainly would have registered for Open. In an Open class I would be less likely to get lost, have a DNF, finish last or just generally make a fool of myself.
The 46 year old me signed up for Competitive. There is a very, very strong chance I will come in last in all three of my events. I’m not saying that to be modest. It is just reality. And I’m not saying I won’t be pissed off with myself if/when I end up in that bottom spot. But it won’t be the end of my world. It will, I hope, be an amazing experience. Hell, it’s not like I will be competing in National Championships in any other sport!
Yesterday was further proof of why my forties are different. Months ago I signed up for a women’s trail running clinic sponsored by MEC. I couldn’t get anyone else I know to sign up so off I went on my own. I’m sure in my younger days heading off to a sports clinic not knowing anyone would have filled me with a nervous dread. But I approached this day excited to learn about trail running. More than anything I wanted to learn a few tricks to help me avoid falling on my face when straying off the pavement!
When I think about how much fun I had at the clinic, I can’t help but think of how much I would have missed if, because of worry over not being good enough or not wanting to go alone, I had just skipped the whole thing. The fact is it didn’t matter if I was a bit of a newbie on trails or that I came alone. I spent time with a group of women who all want the same things. We want to learn, we want to be fit, we want to be outdoors, we want to have fun and we want to make ourselves be the best we can possibly be.
The clinic started with a warm up run and then we were split into groups with leaders. We then spent some time working on technique on some rocky, tree branch laden trails, up and down the ski hill. I learned to stay low, choose a path and get my feet off the ground quickly to avoid roll overs and tripping. When we were asked if any of us wanted to have our awesome guide Annie watch our technique down a rocky, steep path I jumped at the chance. Sure I could fall on my face in front of the other 22 members of our group but remember that less self conscious part of being in my forties? The pay off was finding out my technique and form were spot on. Between the jumping over rocks, having fun on the trails and getting a compliment, I was feeling like a kid again!
If that wasn’t enough, it soon became time to go through mud! After several informative and inspirational speakers in the lodge, it was time for a 40 minute group trail run. We were told there would be no cheating by going around the mud. There was even a camera there, so there would be proof if you didn’t slop your way through. This was no ordinary camera though. Dave McMahon of Natural Fitness Labs was filming us for his soon to be released IMAX film about women in sport. Nor was this a common mud puddle. This was shoe sucking, over your ankles, remarkably stinky, black mud. I was quite happy to run through it but also quickly realized that my shoes were perhaps not tied tightly enough to resist the suction. I was more than relieved to come out with my Salomons still on my feet.
There is lots of running advice out there but if I could add one thing it would be to step out of your comfort zone and step into a lifestyle that makes you smile. Getting older has its perks; you see things from a slightly different perspective allowing you to embrace that which might have scared you away. Once you do so, there is no looking back.