Walter M. Bortz II


Before the Age Boom Goes...
Slow Down Last
(Aging Services of California)

Las Vegas at any hour lacks of reality. But 4:45 a.m. it is really otherworldly. The wake-up phone call jangled my otherwise stable diurnal rhythm with the announcement that it was time to get up - the start was just over an hour away.

Other runners and I numbly filed our way to the uppermost reach of the Strip and the starting line at the Las Vegas Marathon. The December 2, 2007 race has been my goal since my spasm knocked me out of the Beijing marathon a little over a year before.

3, 2, 1, start. The crowd and loudspeakers screamed encouragement. Dozens of Elvis impersonators were trying to break some sort of Guiness record. All very surreal, but I was on my way. I felt great, cruising along comfortably. I passed the halfway, 13-mile mark, all still good. At 20 miles, an aide station with coffee; time, too, for asprin. Only six more miles, the endorphins were streaming. The towers of the Strip hotels are beckoning. Six hours, 10 minutes later, the finish line approached. A foil blanket, a wifely kiss, and a large finishers medal.

My 35th annual marathon. Completed, at a stately 14-minute per mile pace. My pace for the Boston Marathon in 1996 was 11 minutes per mile. Yes, I'm slower... and older. In fact, in Las Vegas, I was the oldest finisher at age 77.

Wherever in the world it takes me, the yearly marathon is my annual physical exam. Great Aussie runner Ron Clarke told of the time late in his career when he was competing against Sebastian Coe, another world-class marathoner. They were pace-for-pace till near the end when Coe edged ahead and won. Ron observed, "The race of life goes not to the one who starts out fast. But to the one who slows down last." This is my ambition.

Copyright 2006-20172019 Walter M. Bortz II, M.D.