Ever wonder what happens to those of us from the ‘running field’ who drop off the radar?
Derek Richmond was doing a little navel-gazing — and perhaps feeling a little sorry for himself — when he thought it might be cool to give an ‘adieu’ and to let others know what happened to that ‘old guy’ heading into his 73rd year on this rock who used to be seen regularly at races, biking and pounding the pavement.
In his birthplace in the UK, Richmond biked and played field hockey, and ran track and cross-country. In Canada, he moved on to middle-distance running, plus a few marathons, including Boston.
“My times weren’t bad but marathons just didn’t do it for me,” he said.
So he added triathlons to running throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and then focused on duathlons (run-bike-run), participating in and winning some local, provincial, national and international races. For more than 25 years, he either qualified for or participated in world championships as a member of the Canadian National Duathlon Team.
“So what? Well, at the end of last year everything came to a ‘grinding’ halt, pun intended,” said Richmond, whose knee gave out and is now scheduled for TKR (total knee replacement).
Which marks an end to his running days — but that’s not where his story ends. While crying over a couple of beers, it wasn’t until he looked back over his log books for the past 50-plus years that he realized he has logged nearly 113,000 kilometres — about three times the circumference of the earth — and he has never been considered a distance runner.
“Time for reflection. Would life have been better had I not run so much? Would I have preferred to have been, like so many others, a late starter at running, to save my legs? Not on your life. I’ve experienced what it is like to run fast. Those times don’t come when you start running later in life.”
Richmond has had the humbling experience of running with some talented athletes, and been privileged to meet and learn from an eclectic mix of athletes, and to experience the buzz and thrill of participating in world championships.
“So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Would I have done things differently if I had I known what was in the cards? Not a chance! As has been the mantra for many others in similar situations: rather be a ‘has been’ than a ‘never was’.”
Richmond said there is plenty to be shared with younger runners coming into their own as well as late starters: What can be done to protect and maximize what you have; how to increase your (hidden) potential; how to extend your participation in sports; and most importantly, the benefits of having more than one card in your hand. He suggests to cross-train, and to have other options to fall back on when injured or in need of a rest.
“The cathartic experience of giving back and sharing knowledge with others is invaluable, and can be a game changer for all parties,” Richmond said.
Looking forward, he hopes to give back to the community, continue with road biking and other pursuits, and take up new challenges, such as swimming, which he said was a weak suite, though he could fake it in sprint triathlons by catching the rest of the field in the bike and run, and reach the podium. He’s looking forward to improving his open water swimming in the Pacific off the Coast of Mexico.
“When you next see the ‘old guy’ go by on his new-found toy, an e-bike, don’t knock it,” Richmond said. “Yes, he’s a ‘has been,’ but we all get there.”