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The Check Engine Light Is On
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opinion columns
by Richard Harris

From the January 22, 2020 issue of The Journal
   Last Saturday I completed my 51st trip around the sun. According to that means I've travelled approximately 4,648 million miles, at times spinning faster than 1,000 miles per hour.
   I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my "check engine" light is on.
   It actually came on last year, shortly after my 50th birthday. I had been warned, but didn't pay much attention to the predictions made by my older friends. I had run just under 1,000 miles over the previous 12 months and logged my second full marathon just two months before turning 50.
   I scoffed at the "get ready for it" comments, figuring I was immune to the Curse of the Big 5-0.
   For several months I was actually on pace to run more miles than the previous year. There were warning signs, but of course I ignored them. Foot's hurting again? Massage it with a frozen golf ball for a few minutes and keep pounding the pavement.
   Feel like you need a rest day? Suck it up, buttercup. Pain is weakness leaving the body. It's the natural American male mindset of "rub some dirt on it."
   However, I was soon reminded that pride goeth before the fall.
   A case of plantar fasciitis I had been trying to ignore decided to get my attention in no uncertain terms. I suddenly went from early morning runs to hobbling to a chair to soak my foot in ice water.
   Unable to run, I decided to swim and bike ride (with a taped up foot) while recovering so my fitness level wouldn't drop so dramatically. All went well until a large dog decided to launch himself in front of me, much like a deer jumping in front of a vehicle. It was bad enough that when my wife arrived on the scene she asked where in the world all the blood came from, then looked at me and said, "Oh."
   I briefly reverted to the "rub some dirt on it" philosophy and told her I was just banged up and probably didn't need to go to the doctor. However, as I struggled to sit, stand, or do anything else humans do, I reluctantly agreed that she was right. Much of the rest of the year consisted of me grimacing as I recovered from bruised ribs and a kidney contusion while trying not to pick at all the scabs and scrapes. On the bright side, my foot suddenly wasn't bothering me as much.
   To add insult to injury, last year I also experienced my first colonoscopy. Everyone over 50 reading this just had an unpleasant flashback, so I won't mention any details. Younger folks, don't "Google" it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Your time will come.
   On a serious note, if you're over 50 and haven't had a colonoscopy, please listen to your doctor and loved ones who've been telling you to schedule the procedure. It can literally save your life.
   Some of my readers who live in the Buena Vista area have probably noticed that I'm finally back out pounding the pavement early in the mornings, but not as often. Previously, I rarely skipped a day and I was usually working toward some goal – a longer distance, a faster time, etc. Now, I'm just trying to not take a single run, or a single day, for granted. But, in spite of the dangers and the pain, I have no plan to stop.
   As philosopher Toby Keith says, "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."