By Jug Varner

Ah for the good old days of careless youth, when we didn’t realize how well life was treating us and how easy it was to maintain large biceps and small waistlines while eating generally whatever we liked.

Every morning during my two-mile walk these days, physical specimens of the above description whiz past me during their daily jogging along the street or across the nearby bay bridge, reminding me that I, too, was once a hard-bodied young squirt passing old men like they were standing still. When the specimen is a girl, I usually tell her as she jogs swiftly by, “Hey, kid, slow down… you’re making me look old.”

What I probably should say is, “Slow down kid and don’t put so much strain on your ankles and knees if you want to live to be my age or older.”

Unfortunately, the age group between young and old are rather scarce on this daily fitness trail. They are too busy with careers, schooling their kids, wrestling with financial burdens, over-eating and under-exercising as they drift through a middle-age that passes all too quickly - until one day when they awake to the fact that they are obese and have lost one of their most cherished possessions - youth.

By this time they are enveloped by the American overweight syndrome and are subject to all the ills it brings, particularly to the heart, lungs and joints. Some will wise up in time to diet, stop smoking, get back in shape and start taking care of themselves properly, but most will continue in the obvious direction they are heading only to fall prey to its devastating aftermath.

Like other Florida sun coast cities, Sarasota‘s predominant population is made up of seniors, some well into their 80s and 90s. Many of these folks are in fairly good physical condition, walk a lot, eat sensibly and thoroughly enjoy this land of sunshine and all of its amenities in the arts, sports and other offerings here.

City officials are quite flexible in accommodating all such events. Local police cordon streets with barricades or orange cones and reroute traffic for frequent parades, street art exhibits, entertainment, marathons, etc., as necessary to please one and all.

One morning, about 15 minutes into my walk, police were busy setting up a street cordon for a 5K and 10K race. Proceeds from the entry fees would go to help rebuild two Port Charlotte County YMCA childcare facilities damaged by the recent Hurricane Charley.

The marathon route paralleled my usual path and, before long, the hard-bodied faster runners of the 10K group sped by - followed by the rest of the thundering herd of athletic shoe-clad feet. The leaders were all business and seemed fiercely competitive as they rapidly disappeared over the bridge‘s horizon - only to reappear very quickly on the return run, huffing and puffing like African Gnus in a stampede, hell-bent for their ultimate finish line.

Next came the speedier runners of the 5K group, leading the pack of competitive, somewhat serious, but mostly in-for-the-fun-of-it group - a passing parade of much slower and time-consuming folks. Participants in this lesser, but joyful, event included the entire spectrum of runners, striders, walkers, strollers and stragglers.

This motley crew included all ages - adults and kids alike, mothers pushing baby carriages, skinny, flabby and in between, you name it. But it was a fun-fest and all for a good cause - to help their friends and neighbors well south of Sarasota.

Whatever their speed and effort, they were at least exercising their bodies - along with their pocketbooks and concerns for their fellow man.

Sarasota is a great place to live and I am glad to be able to be a part of this passing parade and to send you this slice of life from my adopted hometown.