Lake Norman & Mooresville

Middle-agers: Make a dash for your health

Confirming the snickering stranger's summary, yes, it did hurt - but mostly my pride.

After staying afoot on the Teetering Traverse, scaling the Great Warrior Wall, seeing the light in the Blackout, diving into murky Deadwater, tripping over burning coals and crawling face-first through Muddy Mayhem, it was one of the final steps before the finish ...


"Did you see that?" the spectator shouted. "Man, I bet that hurt?"

That last blasted puddle of mud. Think Charlie Brown after another failed field-goal attempt.

Personally, it was a fitting ending to the Warrior Dash, a trendy battle-of-the-wills extravaganza staged Aug. 27-28 at Rural Hill in Huntersville.

Throughout the 5 kilometers of "extreme terrain," featuring 11 "intense obstacles," my personal challenge, it seemed until that last step, was met by keeping my pace faster than a lumbering jog and avoiding the summons of the medical staff.

Personal kudos for a 42-year-old underdog, pressed two months ago into a workout regimen by members of the medical profession.

I am lucky. A routine physical revealed a "heart abnormality," serving as a quick jolt of reality: My son is 21/2 years old. I passed subsequent tests, now drink diet Dr. Pepper, jog regularly around my Huntersville subdivision and enter quirky tournaments of "extreme" athleticism - like the recent Warrior Dash - and feel fitter, stronger.

Thanks, doc.

Informed I needed to exercise to help lose weight, lower my blood pressure, strengthen my bones and increase my energy level, a renewed flexibility, better moods and deeper sleeping patterns are developing.

Let's face it. Middle-age sucks. Are we not all young boys and girls at heart? Do we still want to play but feel like slowing down?

"Studies have shown that regular exercise by middle-aged and elderly people can set back the clock 20-40 years when compared to those who do little or no exercise," according to "Test results show that no matter when a person starts to exercise, significant improvement can be achieved."

Two months ago - and five years removed from allowing my gym membership to lapse, a quarter-mile jaunt was formidable. Eight weeks into a steady increase in distance and using a workout machine in my garage, I completed a 5K course for the first time since 2006 at the Warrior Dash, which proved an interesting experience.

Lining up to run the 3.08-mile course, two 6-foot-plus Smurfs stretched and ran in place. Super Mario was passed easily near the start. A sword-yielding Braveheart, brash at the start, began walking before the first obstacle. At the swampy, muddy finish, loud - and often - live music accompanied the 13,500 competitors, who ran up hills and down, hurtled barricades, climbed cargo nets, crawled under barbed wire, leaped in and out of large garbage containers, stomped up stairs and slid down a fireman's pole ...

And ate turkey legs with friends when it as all over.

Two months ago, I surely would have passed on an event like the Warrior Dash, unable to run and play as I once could. I still have a "gut," but by maintaining a regular exercise pattern, I enjoy being more of a kid at heart.

On Oct. 15, Rural Hill is hosting a 7K run.

Challenge to any middle-ager: Let's race.