"He's retired and has nothing better to do. Run, daddy, run!"
Mortimer Fortenbury retired in May. By July, his wife threatened divorce and his children started talking about nursing homes. Mortimer realized he must find something to replace the time he once spent at work during the day, since his wife, long accustomed to daytime freedom, apparently resented his constant tagalong wherever she went. He loved his wife of forty years, and he had no desire to divorce her this late in the game, after he had trained her comfortably to suit his needs. Further, he had no desire to retire directly from work into a daycare for the drooling elderly.
So, he set about investigating things he might do with the ample time and limited resources of retirement. He considered equestrian pursuits, but found them too expensive and dangerous. He liked boating, but found that to be simply too expensive. In fact, many of the evocations he thought he might like to pursue turned out not to suit him at all, and many other things he wanted to do were quite beyond his physical ability.
One day, he walked to the corner sandwich shop to eat his favorite sandwich, drink a cold beer, and think about this for a while. Despite his advanced age, sixty years suited him fairly well. He had avoided obesity and harmful habits, and he kept fit enough through the years to climb a flight of stairs without panting. Why shouldn't he be physically able to do most things he wanted to do?
He realized then how he had spent most of his life seated behind a desk. He simply had never taken the time to tend to his physique properly. Then he worried if he had waited too long, if he was past help.
After lunch, he walked to a local quick service clinic, where he requested a complete cardiovascular physical examination. The doctor told him to improve his diet and exercise more frequently, though otherwise he appeared healthy.
The next day, Mortimer rose early and drove to the local discount mart. There, he bought two weeks' worth of shorts and t-shirts. He also bought a pair of running shoes and ten sets of flashy socks.
Wearing this ensemble later in the morning, Mortimer set out for a walk. The exertion all but killed him, or so he felt by the end of the two-mile journey. Nevertheless, he did the same thing again in the afternoon, then again the next morning and afternoon, and the next, and so on. For twenty solid weeks, he walked twice a day, each day extending the distance until he was walking more than twenty miles a day.
Now his wife complained that he was away from the house too much. Consternated, he resolved to continue improving himself while reducing the time required to do so. He started walking further, faster. And then he walked faster still. And then faster still.
By the end of one year's time, Mortimer had advanced to the point of jogging five miles per day and walking ten. By the end of the second year, he was jogging ten miles a day and walking five.
He had never been in better shape. His wife appreciated his absences almost as much as his presence, now, and he ravished her more frequently than he had since his salad days in college. His children and grandchildren noted the marked improvement in his demeanor and his wife's contentment. His sons envied his prowess, and seemed amazed that their sixty two year old father could move so far so quickly.
One day during lunch, as he idled between his long, solo journeys through the city, Mortimer read an advertisement in the newspaper about an upcoming charity event. It would raise money with a ten-kilometer run and a five-kilometer walk. He joined immediately.
On the given day, his entire family, including his wife, his two sons, three daughters and their spouses along with nine grandchildren, all accompanied him to the starting line. They rushed from checkpoint to checkpoint to cheer him on and applauded when he won first place in his age group. His wife seemed especially pleased.
As they walked away from the award ceremony that afternoon, she embraced him, despite the cold, clammy sweat that yet coated his lean, leathery skin, and she asked, "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?"
Mortimer said nothing. He winked and hugged her tightly, briefly.
"Seriously, darling, I was afraid you would become one of those miserable, bitter old coots who sit around throughout their retirement pestering their wives, cursing endlessly and drinking too much. For a while, I thought I was going to have to kick you out of the house!"
"For a while, darling," returned Mortimer, smiling and hugging her tightly once more, "I thought you would, too!"
That evening, he had dinner with everyone, and he footed the bill, despite his limited means. Afterward, he mounted his wife, Irene, like a wild animal, and they flailed about on the cast iron bench of the gazebo in their lush backyard, surrounded by jasmine and azaleas. She almost fainted from the extended ecstasy he worked through her body, and then they cuddled together in their hammock, breathing the night's scented air until they fell asleep beneath the stars and rising quarter moon.
The following month, Mortimer won a second charity run, and two more in the six months following. By January of the next year, the third year of his self-improvement binge, Mortimer started looking for a suitable marathon.
When he found the likely event, he broached the subject to his wife across the breakfast table one morning. Though supportive, she seemed hesitant. When he asked what bothered her about it, she replied, "Two things, dear. One, although you've improved considerably over the last few years, I'm afraid twenty-six miles might be too long for your old body. I don't want to be a widow just yet, you know!"