The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Aiming for a personal best: Racing to fitness by 50

Rachael Conlin Levy

Jingle Bell 5K, 2019.

I don’t like to run, but my husband and I challenged each other to run ten 5Ks before we both turn 50 in fall of 2020. Running hurts: My knees twinge, a hip grows cranky and my lungs have started giving me trouble. But three out of four of my kids have asthma, yet that’s never stopped them, so it won’t stop me. I just need to remember to use the inhaler before I start.

6Dec19 Don't forget the inhale(r)


6Dec19 detail

“Air … I inhale it anyway, knowing that it will hurt in the weary ends of my crumpled paper bag lungs.” –poet and journalist Mark O’Brien, 1988.

I’ve run three 5Ks since this challenge began, each one is easier than the last. My baseline is 37 minutes, 29 seconds, set during the first race on Halloween. Since then, I’ve shaved off a second or two. I could claim it’s because my endurance is growing, but I think it has more to do with pressure lessening: When I look at the people around me, all jiggle-jogging our way to the finish line, I smile and relax.


Run Scared 5K, 2019.

My latest race was a Jingle Bell run. Snow fell at the start and finish lines, and joggers wearing Santa hats and angel wings sang Christmas carols along the route. My 12-year-old, disappointed that I’d not paid for him to participate in the timed race, took my number at the last minute, so my official time was impressive, though wildly inaccurate.

Maybe on my 10th 5K I’ll match this time.

Or maybe not.

Others may measure success by score, placement and time, but for me, it’s happiness I’m racing toward as I near the the finish line.


Our first 5K was on Halloween.

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