The fall season


By Neil Offen

I don’t think I particularly fall down any more often than other people my age who fall down on a semi-regular basis. What I have mastered, though, is the art of falling down at a particularly inopportune moment.

One of those moments — actually, two of them — happened during a recent 5K race I ran. (If you’re wondering why I was running a 5K race in the first place, it’s because there were no 1Ks around and my wife wanted to declutter the pantry.)

We were running in the deep woods, on a bumpy dirt trail when I fell. I would like to blame my fall on the bumpy dirt trail and a rock or a tree root or a divot but it’s more likely it happened because I’m old enough to remember the Milton Berle television show. 

In any case, before I fell, I first just stumbled. You know that sense of everything slowing down when you stumble, and for a millisecond you truly believe you’ll be able to right yourself and continue on like before? I didn’t have that sense at all. This wasn’t that millisecond.

When I fell, I landed on my knees and my hands, scraping them nicely. The other runners were very solicitous as they raced past me, carefully avoiding the blood. One runner, however, even stopped mid-run to ask if I was OK. That’s the thing about runners: despite all our differences, in age, fitness and crossword puzzle acumen, we have this special code. While we’re lying on the ground with bloody knees, when we’re asked if we’re OK, we always collegially respond: No, you idiot, I’m bleeding and in pain and sincerely wondering why I’m not at home sitting on the couch watching reruns of “Cheers.”

After that warm exchange of race-running camaraderie, I got up and continued to run. I may not be fast, but I’m clearly dumb. I ran for about another half mile (1.5 Ks, or three imperial gallons) or so, blood dripping down my leg.

That’s when my foot hit another bump or rock or stump in the ground and I took another tumble, officially taking the lead in the 5K Masters Most Falls division. This fall was completely different from the first tumble. There was no need to stumble — I just headed directly to the ground.

I landed, of course, exactly on the places that were still bleeding from the previous fall. I was now more bloody, sore and stiff and most of all, perplexed. As I lay there, I thought: Why hadn’t I stayed home to alphabetize my collection of ballpoint pens or watch another episode of Antiques Roadshow? Maybe I could have more easily raised my target heart rate by writing nasty, anonymous comments to online articles?

But since there was no other way to get to the finish line and the snacks available there, I got up and continued running. Yes, we have a code among runners: Keep going until you can damage another part of your body.

It would be nice to add at this point that, despite the tumbles, despite the damage to my knees and my pride and despite the deep embarrassment I have caused my age group, I raced to the finish line and was greeted with acclaim. Actually, I was greeted by two second-graders and a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy, all who had easily beaten me to the finish line.

Next time, I’m watching “Cheers.”

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1 Comment on "The fall season"

  1. Lowell Roberts | June 9, 2023 at 10:17 am | Reply

    It is strange to be the same age as old people. Neil, your comments on falling are replicated by me and many others.

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