They say ultra trail runners are some of the coolest and the baddest of the bunch in a world where less than 10 percent of its denizens have an active and regular healthy lifestyle. By healthy we may think that hitting the gym 3x a week and doing our weekend long runs on trails to no end is enough. Add the fact that we eat healthier than many (though that’s still subject to debate) and we have our regular 8-hour sleeps (while our contemporaries have to resort to sleeping drugs). And we feel invincible. The fact is underneath those bulging quads and strong core muscles lies a complex body system which can actually be faltering without showing any symptom from the outside.
Thus, we all need to undergo our annual physical examinations. Ever since I was diagnosed with essential hypertension 4 years ago, undergoing those rigorous x-rays, blood tests and laboratory works has become a yearly ritual courtesy of my health insurance plan. And I thought everyone was doing the same thing, especially those who have reached their 40s. So it was a surprise when most runners (and even triathletes) I asked seem to (or chose to) ignore this crucial annual medical checkup.
The rationale usually goes that since they have their regular physical activity and basically look fit (though that is still a subject of contention), they need not get in contact with a needle and have their blood siphoned to gauge their health level. They ‘know’ that they have no problem, physically and physiologically. See these rippling back muscles and steely gluteus maximus. Now let’s run into the sunset…
Well, here’s a wakeup call, guys. Those sub-1:45 21Ks and sub-6 50Ks – they won’t last forever, not even in the next 5 years. Unless, one is persistent, disciplined, organized and passionate, but most of us mortals will fall on the wayside to give way to the young turks who can easily run circles around us. For the years I’ve been into running, I’ve seen many colleagues rise to meteoric highs, peak and soon disappear into oblivion. And they move on to the next health craze. Parkour, anyone?
I’m what you may call a Keeper. I don’t move from one hobby or passion to the next. Once I’ve found my calling, I latch on to it for as long as I can and just keep going. I guess that’s how you’d describe my running career – a long well drawn out journey with hardly any finish line in sight. So I’m in it for the long haul, thus the need to maintain my over-all health, patience and sanity. No short cuts, no supplemental drinks or vitamins (not even glucosamines with chondroitin), no drugs (except for my anti-hypertensives), no stimulants/uppers (except for some energy gels). And most of all, I religiously have my regular physical assessment, which this year just included the dreaded (and painfree) but potentially lifesaving colonoscopy procedure. Soon, I will be including my prostate examination.
An M.D.-patient of mine once quipped (when I told her of my regular barrage of medical and laboratory examinations) that perhaps, I’m might be in continuous search for problems in my body. Which could hold true but more importantly, I simply want a functioning healthy body that I would be utilizing on my runs and adventures. Whether it’s my car, house, clinic or body, the key is still prevention so I won’t have to blame myself if I ever found damage or problems which could have easily been resolved upon early diagnosis.
So yes, that’s my long term plan and execution. It’s not totally fail safe but at least I have a road map to where I’m heading. My partner complains that I stress myself too much on planning and analysis but that’s just what I’m made of. It’s in my DNA and in the 52 years I’ve been in this world, thinking ahead has always put things in perspective and guided me through life’s confusing and convoluted boulevards.
So, are you ready to face one of life’s most feared rituals? You know – blood, needles, hospitals, laboratory and physical examinations – don’t worry it’s not as bad as it seems. In fact, it could actually add quality to your twilight years. Now picture yourself at 70, still trudging along some lost trail in the steamy jungles of Reunion Island. Now wouldn’t that be swell?