Years ago it was my duty to drive a van-load of students to a camp on Schroon Lake in up-state New York. As soon as I arrived I was greeted with a series of adjustments and disappointments. I would not be able to stay on the Island with the students. I would be in an old inn on the mainland instead of the nicer conference center. The Inn was not air-conditioned. I would not be alone but would have to share my room with a stranger. I was used to three meals a day, they only served two.
I was getting settled in my room when my roommate for the week showed up. I was a little uncomfortable at first. He was pleasant enough but clearly a little eccentric. He was an older fellow. At the time I was about twenty two or three so at sixty-three or four he seemed ancient to me.
That night while I was getting ready to turn in he noticed by watch and asked if I was a runner. “Oh, I run a couple three miles a day, sometimes five on Saturday, mostly for my health.”
“Mine is a triathalete watch,” he said, and I tried not to snicker at the thought of this old guy sporting a timepiece made to pace swimmers, and runners and bikers and ultra-athletes. “You ever do any running?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m a triathalete, he said without a smile.” I thought, “Oh, great I have to spend a week in the same room with some delusional mental case.” But to humor him I said; “Are you really? You mean you have actually competed in a Triathalon?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact this year I finished the Ironman Triathalon in Hawaii. Would you like to look at my picture album?” There in the album was undeniable photographic evidence that this old fossil could clean up the road with me on my best day.
“You planning on running in the morning?” he asked. Uh. not as fast or as far as you are I’m sure,” I said. “Let’s run together. I’ll let you pace me and we will go as far as you want, then I’ll go on from there.”
“O.K. I said.”
In the morning we ran while the sun climbed over the mountain pines and the mist rose from the lake. I ran a little faster than usual and the “old guy” managed to stay right with me for five miles. After five miles at this pace I was ready for a shower, breakfast, the morning paper and a comfy chair so I waved goodbye to my friend and he picked up the pace and loped easily around the next bend in the road and out of sight. Later that day he hopped on his bike and peddled from Schroon Lake to Lake George and back.
I enjoyed a nice easy run each morning while I was there. It was a fine week that has been a peaceful and pleasant memory to me for years. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm with low humidity and cool mornings and evenings. The food was incredible. Three meals a day like that would have been sinful gluttony, two was perfect. They served a wonderful brunch buffet and in the evening a theme dinner ranging from steaks at the Western-Style Cookout to a full Hawaiian buffet.
For a year or so after I met the “old guy” he sent me race clippings from all over the country. I’m not sure if it inspired me or discouraged me. That was about twenty years ago. Since then I have lost touch with my old roommate.
I feel pretty young and energetic but I have to admit I think about aging more these days. I like to look at it a little like half-time though. We have no guarantee of long life, but if I am at half time of my life I am going to try to use the experience that I have gained to make a mark for God in the years I have left.
So I say if you are starting to feel the years in you, you might have to slow up a little to pace yourself so you can finish strong but whatever you do make up your mind now that you are going to push clear to the tape. Your best days are probably ahead of you.
Uncle “Johnny” Johnson, the founder of Camp Barakel in Northern Michigan, is eighty-eight. He said to me recently, “Oh, I wish I was your age again.” It was a good word because I had spent the week with a lot of very young people and I was pretty conscious of my age. I realized I was half Uncle Johnny’s age and may very well have a lot of life ahead of me.
I’m looking forward to the rest of my life. It’s been pretty good so far and it keeps getting better. “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)