The inevitable slowdown

The kids and Connor at the top of the AT hike last year

Yesterday we drove west to the Appalachian Trail to do a family hike. We did this same five-mileish hike last Memorial Day weekend and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be fun to go back. Now, when I say family hike, I include our 13-year old whippet, Connor. He has always loved to hike with us and I can’t think of a time when I’ve left him behind.

Connor, as you might expect, has always been a beautiful runner. He used to be my running partner, too, until about six or seven years ago, when he made it clear he didn’t want to go along anymore. Walking and hiking, however, have continued to be a regular part of the routine. For some reason, the day before our hike this weekend, I questioned whether or not we should bring Connor. There hasn’t been any real incident that would make me feel this way, it’s just that he’s been slowing down of late.

Hard to watch him get old

My gut instinct was on. We didn’t get very far into the hike when Connor really started dragging. At the first rocky ascent we came to, he planted his feet and refused to go on. I started coaxing him and gently pulling on the leash, and then came a kick to the gut–his hips gave out. He just kind of fell down into a hopeless heap and started shaking–he was clearly as scared by this as we were. Mr. Zippy picked up Connor and carried him for a while and when we got to more level ground, set him down again. We led him to a nearby spring and tried to get him to drink (it was pretty hot on top of it all) and then decided that we’d better just head back down–we didn’t want to push him at all.

I can’t know for sure, but I suspect we’re entering new territory here with Connor, where likely he won’t be joining us for anything other than short walks. Thinking about this today, I applied it to humans and running and how eventually, whether we like it or not, our bodies will ultimately limit us. That will be a bitter pill to swallow, for sure. In spite of it, though, I still firmly believe that those of us who remain active and eat healthy diets will lead a much better quality of life than those that choose to live otherwise. You use or it you lose it–I buy in.

Until that day when my body says “not so fast,” or “time to walk instead of run,” I’m going to enjoy every step. How about you?  

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  1. says

    I hope you will have plenty good walks still with Connor. As you say we have to accept it as part of life. I’ve seen how my dad who was a great ultra runner miss the time out there and the preparation for ultra races. He is now 82 but he chose the active life and can still walk/run 10km with ease. He is very healthy and the lifestyle he chose clearly was the right one.
    Johann recently posted..Foto FridayMy Profile

  2. says

    Wishing you and Connor plenty of good hikes together.
    I am hoping to beat that age thing but ever so often I wonder if it’s possible that some of us just have bodies that deal with aging better. Then I silence those thoughts as I try to persuade my stiff from the night muscles and tendons to start working.
    Ewa recently posted..Bay to Breakers race report you don’t want to missMy Profile

  3. says

    Always sad when our pets get old. Our vet calls one of our dogs grandma now that she’s older and has slowed down considerably. Maybe it’s time for Connor to sit on the porch and listen to the radio like a grandpa.

  4. says

    I remember when our dog Sheema stopped going on our long explorations, it was hard, but part of the life cycle we all go through. Our pets battle it hard, but also know better than we do sometimes when it is just time to say enough is enough.

    As for fighting the aging process, I plan to fight it every step of the way! I may not eat perfectly, but we eat well and our activity levels remain high. I tend agree with my Great Grandmother Bertha – Aging happens – getting old is a choice.

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  5. says

    I’m so sorry. I know how hard it is when our pets start to slow down. I too hope that you and Conner have many many wonderful walks ahead of you. That aging thing is tricky and definitely starting to rear it’s head, making its appearance in small ways. But I am so with you – I’m enjoying every single step until I can’t.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Scenes from my weekend – Memorial DayMy Profile

  6. says

    My cats turn 14 this August, so I understand (even though they have never been my running partners!).
    I think the aging process has given me a different take on running. When I was younger, I was really competitive. Now, while many people would frown upon my thinking, I am just out there to finish and enjoy myself. I want to stay healthy and not get hurt (to the best of my ability). I greatly admire runners like yourself, that are much faster than I am and that want to continue to get faster. It’s just not for me. I am trying to avoid the hereditary heart attacks and the advancement of problems that have already been diagnosed. And still enjoy my runs/races!
    Heather @ Bake, Run, Live recently posted..Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Challah BreadMy Profile

  7. says

    Aw this made me sad.. poor connor :( It is true though – sooner or later we all will slow down. This thought of “slowing down” has been on my mind this past quarter of college. Every wednesday I work at an assistant living community’s fitness center. Every day I work there I think to myself – I do NOT want to get old – i do not want to be like these people. Although, getting “old” is bound to happen, I have a lot of control over my aging process. I can choose to eat healthy foods and exercise and keep my mind alert. The human body is an amazing thing.
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  8. says

    Oh :-( That just made my heart break in way too many pieces. My husky was my running partner for far too short of a time. Her shoulder gives out now way before she wants to stop. It is so so so sad.
    Julie recently posted..It’s Not All Hard WorkMy Profile

  9. says

    What a lovely post! I was just thinking the other day about how I (hopefully) have so many more running years in me, and how that’s one of the great things about running. It’s so much more sustainable than, say, football.
    Laura recently posted..My mom called me a salmonMy Profile

  10. Kristen says

    Poor Connor! It is hard to watch our pets get older. I agree with you – I’m going to keep moving as long as my body lets me.

  11. says

    poor Connor :(
    and sadly I remember when one of my dogs went from being my running partner to my walking buddy to his not being able to even do that…
    You are totally in touch with his needs though and that’s way cool/loving! <3
    Tara Burner recently posted..Going All The WayMy Profile

  12. says

    What a sweet-looking dog! My family has Abby, a golden retreiver, who is also 13 and it is so sad to see her get more and more sluggish. She too has accompanied me on some runs in college.

    Might as well enjoy every step-long or short-, that’s what I think we’re intended to do.
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  13. says

    It’s sad to see them slow down and realize they aren’t the young, agile dogs we have known for so many years. Even if he can’t go far anymore, a short walk will likely still make his day as he slows down.
    abbi recently posted..Heat FailMy Profile

  14. says

    Oh, no- poor Connor! It’s so hard to watch the slowing down process, whether in our families or animals. Like you, I plan to keep going as long as I can, if that means switching to walking, or other low-impact activities, that’s fine. My body is happier in motion! My mom and grandma are not runners, but they are very active, hard-working women, and have remained strong and “young” into their older years.
    Laura recently posted..Too-hot-to-race Astros 10k recapMy Profile

  15. says

    We had our dogs out yesterday for about 8 hours (some in the car, some on the trails, as we finalized pieces of the 24-hour race we’re designing). They’re 9 and 5 years old, so not aging yet, but the sun was enough that even though we were being careful and taking it really easy with them, by the end, they elected to lie down in a creek rather than join us for the final ascent.
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  16. says

    fun, family hike but oh that breaks my heart…his poor legs gave out. We have an 11yr old yellow lab and she’s not quite the dog she used to be. Her hips are bad, she has definitely slowed down a bit and we’re dreading the days of her running for her ball or short walks are even too much…makes me sad for Connor!
    marissa recently posted..some pain and Wellspring…My Profile

  17. says

    It’s always sad, the slow down of our beloved pets. Making it to at least 13 years is great, at least you know he will have lived a full life whenever his days reach the end. Hopefully he still has more time! Regarding our own bodies, I think we have to adapt to the stage of life we are in. When we discover that we can no longer continue one form of fitness, we can adapt to new directions. If running eventually becomes out of the question, many of us can look to more swimming as it is lower impact. I also am planning/hoping that yoga can really become part of a great fitness routine as I get older myself. :-)
    Christina recently posted..Indy 500 favorite win, running and travel plans, and this humidity blowsMy Profile

  18. says

    What a beautiful dog he is!! My neighbor and I have always taken her chocolate lab to run with us when we go on trails and she has gotten a bad hip and not been able to come lately (even though she wants too). Sad!!! I am sorry you have to watch him grow old… definitely a bitter sweet part of having pets.

    And amen… I am going to enjoy every step as long as my body lets me. :)
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  19. says

    Yes, we will all inevitably have to slow down…but it’s all relative to where we began! I’m sure Conner is in fabulous shape compared to other dogs his age – as will we be still moving and shaking well in to our 70’s (80’s!?) to the surprise of our sedentary counterparts. :)
    Andrea recently posted..Happy Memorial DayMy Profile

  20. says

    Oh sweet little Connor, he’s living a great long life if he’s 13 and just now showing he’s not up for hikes anymore. He’s a lucky pup to have such a great family to take care of him :) Dogs are just the best. The best.
    Erin recently posted..#WhatshouldwecallgradschoolMy Profile

  21. says

    Poor Connor, but I’m sure he can still enjoy shorter walks and time with the family. It is hard to watch the family pet, a loved member of the family, get older but all the great years we have with them – the pet and us are fortunate to have found each other.
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