As you get older, you need to learn one thing if you continue to try to run.
Don't let your ego get in the way.
If you do, you'll likely get hurt.
Normally, I'm pretty good about this.
I'm well past the stage of embarrassment if a woman in her 40s or even a young teen passes me up as I jog.
I'm content with the idea that there are limits to how much I can exercise... or how fast I can go.
I also take joy in the fact that at age 57 I can still run a few times a week. I can, I might add, because I listen to my body even though my ego is whispering in my ear.
I have run since 1968, when I was a freshman in high school. I ran cross country and track in high school as well as college. I continued to run a lot in my 20s, even competing in a few marathons.
I do pay the price now for all that mileage I logged back then. My legs and feet are a bit more brittle than a lot of runners my age.
This does present a challenge. I'm a bit of an exercise freak. I like to do some sort of aerobic activity every day. And I still love to run.
Two decades ago, I gave up trying to run every day. For 20 years, I have mixed in swimming, biking and the fitness center along with my jogs.
Each year, the days I am able to run dwindle. Slowly but surely. Some year, I'll have to be content with walking. But I'm not there yet.
I have made an agreement with my body. If I do the elliptical and the bicycle fives days a week, I can run on the road on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
My body has signed off on this contract and so far we are in sync. I haven't had a serious injury in a couple of years.
This past week, however, I overdid it. I was in Los Angeles for a conference and ran and walked too much on the hard sidewalks of Southern California.
When I flew home Friday evening, I could feel the soreness in my legs. Yet, I was scheduled to run along the trails of Castle Rock Park on Mount Diablo on Saturday morning with Walnut Creek Patch editor Lance Howland.
I should have canceled, but my ego slipped next to me and said, "You can't cancel, buddy. Runner's code. You gotta show up."
So, I did. Although he's only a couple of years younger than me, Lance can run quite a bit farther than I can.
On this Saturday, we planned to run out and back on the dirt paths farther than we have in the past. I should have begged off. I didn't.
I usually walk some of our Saturday runs while Lance runs ahead and comes back to get me.
But halfway through this particular trek, it was obvious I was in violation of my contract.
My legs barked at me. "You want shin splints, old man? That's what we're headed for here. You've avoided knee surgery so far. You want to keep that record clean?"
I smartly gave in. I walked most of the way back while Lance patiently ran ahead and kept coming back to pick me up.
I iced my shins Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, I took it easy -- just doing a short hike in Mitchell Canyon while bird watching with my niece's husband.
My ticked-off body seemed to relent a little. After another icing, the shins were returning to normal.
My body told me: "If you use the elliptical on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and weight lift on Tuesday and Thursday, I'll let you run again on Saturday. Is that a deal?"
Yeah, OK body. You got a deal.