Why I keep running by Robert Moore

The first time that I was told to stop running for ever based on an ankle injury that would not heal was in 1967. This advice came from a highly regarded Sports Medicine expert at the University of Toronto. I told him that I would like to continue to jog even if I was not competitive. He advised me never to run long distance again as my injury could not stand the stress. Since that advice I ran 45 marathons, five of them in under 2 hours 20 minutes.

PHOTO:  Robert Moore, Courtesy of Allan Williams 

Now in my old age I get the same advice to retire when I talk with Sports Medicine experts about my declining prowess. Over the last twenty years damage has become more evident. I have had osteoarthritis in my knees and feet since 2000, plantar fasciitis for 8 years, polymyalgia rheumatica since 2010, and a pulmonary infarct in 2016. Now MRI scanning has shown that I have an aortic aneurysm.

So, as for Glen Norcliffe, it is a fair question to ask “why do you (bother to) run?”.

Firstly I enjoy it. Every training run or race is different. They are still a surprise and delight. When I took up running I ran for the fifth and slowest cross country team at Leeds University. Travelling with them I got to see the country. That was a special experience. In two years I moved up through the teams and eventually led the first team to two University National Championships. That gave me good memories and set me up for more ambitious efforts and more memorable experiences with the Toronto Olympic Club when I came to Canada for Professional Training.

Secondly I am curious about what will happen to my physiology as I age. By profession I am a clinical chemist and have taught health care workers laboratory medicine since 1963 to the present day. My father and paternal grandfather died of cardiac causes at the age of 74 years. Faced with this possible threat I developed a quite healthy life style to delay such a death if I could. I have been told that I am not a naturally gifted runner. My VO2 max was never exceptional and I do not run smoothly. I got to a good standard by hard work and a willingness to take risks. The level I got to still amazes me and even some of my rivals from the early days. I still get a thrill when I compete even in my now much slower races. I suppose I run for health and vitality. What is the point of living to an old age if you are not active until the end? What I have learnt about my physiology so far is that what slows me down the most is declining lung function. Less of an impact is muscle ageing and the old orthopedic problems that still become evident from time to time.

Thirdly I am curious to know what helps me to improve or these days at least maintain my fitness. At the beginning of my running career I found that I did not like interval training so I got to a high level of performance by training hard over distance and frequent racing. This worked then but unfortunately does not now. These days I find I cannot sustain the training volume that I used to do without injury and the quality is no- where near as high. I have plotted my 5 km, 10 km and marathon times on graphs. I was at my best at age 35 years and since then every year I lost pace. After age 35 to about age 70 I lost 1-2% pace on average now it is 3%/year.

Fourthly running can be a social event. I enjoy the company of other runners at all levels of ability. I still am friendly with my old University team mates and rivals and I visit them when I can.

Fifthly I am embedded. I compete in races, organize races, have accredited races for Athletics Ontario, edit and write this newsletter, help raise money for other athletes at the Bingo sessions and the Canadian Running Series and similar events. This voluntary activity enriches my life and I have no wish to abandon it.

Looking back over my athletic career I think I could have done better if I had raced less and with more discrimination but I do not regret what might have been. This was an interesting journey.

Robert Moore 2018 12 10.

Copyright Toronto Olympic Club 2019