I hate to see them go from active, competitive, and being on top of the world one day to cast off to the side and just forgotten overnight. It’s sad. I prefer to see them treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Allow them to step down gradually and pass through a phasing out process that doesn’t leave them feeling unneeded, unwanted, and unloved. Just because their high performance days are over doesn’t mean that can’t still add value or contribute.
I like to see them treated as follows …. After they are over the prime of their athletic career (perhaps having raced an ironman or a marathon), don’t give up on them. Depending on their overall state and how well they have been treated and been cared for, they may still be good companions for that small low key neighborhood 5k or can certainly still enjoy some low intensity training miles.
The next step in the process would be a migration to the gym. With their serious racing and training behind them, they can still give and get a lot of benefit with regular trips to the gym and some indoor cycling or strength training. I see this all the time. They hang out and congregate around the local YMCA and while they may not actually say anything, they walk around with a certain sense of … something that says “I was good. I logged some serious mileage, crossed finished lines and celebrated. I was somebody, or something”.
But of course the time will come when our friends become too worn and weathered for even the gym. A mere shell of their former self. At that point they may be limited to a different kind of fitness such as gardening, lawn cutting, or even just casual walks about town.
Eventually, however, the end is inevitable. Having passed through the various cycles of fitness, they will have to stop all activity completely. But that need not necessarily be a sad day. Embrace who they were, what they did, and the accomplishments they helped you achieve. Although retired, they are champions and should be treated as such.
So, once those old tired running shoes are removed for the very last time, find a local organization to donate them to. There are many of them out there and they will draw every last breath and step out of your old cast offs and ultimately retire them to the recycle farm where they can further contribute to breeding new life again in some capacity.
Take care of that which has taken care of you and take care of those who of have taken care of you.
Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.