How I Got Younger and How You Can Too

Updated on March 1, 2019
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My early life could be characterized by the phrases late bloomer and failure to launch. At 40 life appeared. At 58, I turned back the clock.

Group Photo After Revel Big Bear Marathon

Photo of Eric Coggins with Corona Girls of Crossroads Running Community
Photo of Eric Coggins with Corona Girls of Crossroads Running Community | Source

It is never too late to live your dreams or passions

I used to hear some say life begins at the age of 40 and truly that is my story. After 50, it got even better; after 55, I even began to get younger, my facial features notwithstanding. Intrigued? Read on.

Is there some life dream that you have set on the back burner or given up on? Do you find yourself saying "I would sure love to do that, but I am too old and my time has passed?"

I used to think that way as well.

My Early Life as a Restless, Rudderless Wanderer

From the time I entered high school until I was 34 years old, the phrase that could best describe me was "late bloomer," "failure to launch," "no guts, no glory," "the path of least resistance and pain." I lived my dreams vicariously through movie stars and famous athletes.

My early life motto

"Instant breakfast, instant life; anything easy, because that's what I liked" was my early life motto. If it took blood, sweat, and tears, then never mind.

Early years

During my early years, I did only as much as was necessary to get by. I was kind of the stereotypical middle child - the third of four and second of three boys. My sister was popular, my older brother was smart and driven, and my younger brother was good looking and a top athlete. Subconsciously, I decided that I couldn't compete, so I did the minimum in school and sports.

In junior high and high school, I had no heart, not courage. I loved to play sports, but hated to train and quit everything before my senior year.

After high school, I bounced around like a balloon blown here and there by the wind. From 18 to 26, I lived in eight different places, attended five different colleges, and worked at least fifteen different jobs. During that time I began to bloom athletically and became somewhat of a gym rat. I hit my athletic peak in my mid-20s.

After Marriage

At 26, I married my one and only wife Renee. One would think that I would have become more settled, but I continued to bounce from one experience to another. From 26 to 34, we moved six times; and I changed jobs twelve more times. By the patient love and gracious support of my wife, I was however, able to complete a Bachelor's degree at California State University, Long Beach. If not for her strong faith in God and Jesus Christ, my wife would not have stuck it out with me.

After our third child - Step up to maturity and responsibility

At 33 after the birth of our third child, I finally began to wake up to the realities and responsibilities of mature adult life. At 34 I began to show some potential for success after taking a sales representative position with Circuit City and helping to plant a new church in our local area. As the main source of income, I grew in my sales job at Circuit City, became one of the top sales reps in store and the local region, and was honored twice at the annual sales award dinner.

Body begins to decline athletically

From age 26 to 40, my body began to deteriorate as age set in and I became less athletically active. I played in a few basketball leagues each spring but my skills declined slowly but surely.

New responsibilities

In my late 30s. I had begun to show a sense of responsibility, discipline, and maturity not only at my job with Circuit City but also at a lay leader at our local church. Others in church leadership embraced the change and opened their hearts to let us pursue a position as Christian workers in Southeast Asia.

Life after 40 - I Learned a New Language and a Earned a PHD

Life began to pick up steam after age 40 when my family and I moved to live in Southeast Asia for over five years, and then age at age 52 after I completed an MBA and PHD.

Lived in another culture and learned a new language

During various times in my life, I attempted to learn other languages. Those languages included Spanish, French, Russian, and Japanese. No matter how much I studied and put sticky labels on everything in my home, I could not make the new language(s) stick in my brain. From age 40 to 46, that problem changed. Due to immersion into our new culture, I learned to speak the local language. We left that place in 2006, but to this day in 2019 I still remember a great deal of the language. In fact, there are times when I think of the foreign word for something before I remember the English word.

Learning a new language at a relatively older age of 40 helped me to gain a greater confidence in myself. It helped me to begin to realize the wonder of the human body and what it can do. It helped me realize that I had more ability than I allowed myself to embrace.

Earned an MBA and a PHD

After we returned to California in 2006 and consulting with my parents, I went back to school to gain an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix and an PHD in Global Leadership from Regent University in Virginia. Through the University of Phoenix I grew in personal discipline and time management skills. Through the program at Regent University, I learned depth, drive, and perseverance to complete what i started regardless of the cost or obstacle.

I cannot speak to other peoples' experiences with the University of Phoenix, and I do not know anything about their internal business practices. Yet I can attest to how the UOP MBA program changed my life as a person. Before entering the MBA program, I was still a bit undisciplined. I was a wait-to-the-last-minute-to-throw-it-together kind of guy. UOP changed all that for me. Each course was six weeks in length and had three personal projects and three group projects. I was in the Online program, so the group projects were with three to five other team members who I never met or saw. I learned to get work done early in the week as well as how to collaborate with others in virtual space, and I did well at it. I graduated from UOP at age 48.

The process of earning the PHD taught me that I had a second gear, a deeper drive to persevere and finish what I started than I had previously displayed or thought about myself. Through hard work and successful collaboration with my professors from Regent University I graduated with the PHD in Global Leadership.

By the grace of God and hard work in the MBA and PHD programs, I gained deeper confidence in myself than I had ever had previously. My efforts to complete the two degrees paid off for me as they helped me land dream positions teaching as an online adjunct professor for two universities. Those positions which I have held since 2013 and 2015 respectively have been extremely rewarding and have proved to be a perfect fit for my personality and abilities.

As the only adage goes, at least for me, the best of life truly did begin after the age of 40.

At 55, I Got Younger

From age 33 to 53, personal athletic activity was an on again off again affair. I played in a church basketball league at age 34, then did not play any basketball until we moved to Southeast Asia when I was 40. In Southeast Asia, I played basketball with other expats and some nationals from one to four times in a week. This continued until I 43 when my family moved to a small provincial town away from the capital city. When we returned to California, our home church had a basketball court,so I played some pick up basketball and played one season in church league when I was 47. After that league ended, I did not play basketball for another six years.

Through all this time, I would start a running program and quit after a few weeks or maybe a month.

Pick up basketball at LA Fitness

At 53, I joined LA Fitness with my son Andrew to help him train for baseball. My son did not continue, but I started playing pick up basketball with mostly younger guys from the local high school. Like a young puppy helps revive an old junk yard dog, I began to get in shape and slowly but surely began to catch up to the younger guys. Now at 59, I still continue to play basketball at LA Fitness, and I shoot and play defense better than I did when I was in my 20s. The difference came when I started training for half marathons.

My first half marathon

In 2015 at age 55, my closest friend from high school registered his non-profit organization as an official charity of the OC Marathon in Newport Beach/Costa Mesa, California. He invited his friends to run a half marathon with him to help raise support for an Egg Farming business his organization was starting in Africa. I decided sure I'll join and run with him. He and I trained together for a few months. In high school, he wasn't much of an athlete, and at the time of the race he was 30 pounds heavier than I. He finished the the 2015 USBank OC Half Marathon ahead of me. I was happy for him, but highly dissatisfied with my personal result. I continued to enter local races in Long Beach and Huntington Beach (Surf City) and then again OC with my friend in 2016. I ran my first marathon in Long Beach in October 2016, and then ran OC with my friend a third time in 2017. In each effort I recorded incremental gains in my running times, but as I mostly trained alone I lacked motivation to get up in the dark each morning or in the winter cold to train. Thus, I did not make any real gains.

Crossroads Running Community

After the first half marathon in 2015, I came across another church friend at the finish line who told me about a community of runners in my home town. After the 2017 OC race two years later, I realized that the only way I was going to make real progress in terms of time was to find a group of people to train with. I started training with a group called Crossroads Running Community (CRC) sponsored by Crossroads Community Church in Corona, CA. The group was made up of mostly women in their late 30s and early 40s. A group of five or six of the women had all qualified or were attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon. They were faster than I was, and they could run much farther than I could. My times began to drop dramatically.

My first marathon in October 2016, I finished in 5 hours and 21 minutes. After training with CRC, I ran my second marathon 16 months later in 4 hours and 18 minutes; and my fourth marathon in October 2018 in 3 hours and 48 minutes. Since I will be 60 at the time of the 2020 Boston Marathon, so that time will supposedly qualify me for that 2020 race.

Still, you might ask how have you gotten younger? Well, part of our training includes speed training most Wednesday mornings at a local high school track. When I was 21 my roommate and I went to a local high school track to see how fast we could run one lap around a track (400 meters). I remember that my friend timed us at about 1:15 (or 75 seconds). In December 2018 at age 58, I clocked a 1:12 400 meters (or 72 seconds). At 400 meters I am now faster than I was when I was 21. The last time I ran a six minute mile was when I was 18. I have not yet accomplished a six minute mile, but in February 2019 at age 59 I ran a mile in 6 minutes 23 seconds, and in December 2018 at 58, I recorded a 2 minute 45 second half mile. So I am getting close to running faster times than I could at age 18.

So my gray hair and beard not withstanding, it seems I am getting younger; I am certainly in better physical shape than I was in my 40w, 30s, and 20s. In February 2019, I set personal records for total running miles in a month at 178 and a two week period 113 miles.

Conclusion

I got younger by accomplishing feats I did not have the patience or courage to complete before the age of 40. Those feats snowballed from (a) living in a new culture and learning a new language to (b) completing an MBA and PHD to (c) working a dream job as a facilitator of learning and cheerleader for Online university students to (d) playing basketball at LA Fitness and training for long distance races with my friends at Crossroads Running Community. It all took internal commitment and cooperation and collaboration with others.

Finally, I know it is also by the grace of God. As I know that I am one torn achilles tendon or leg muscle away from the gains to come to an end. I am in awe of how God crafted the human body to adapt and endure to so many different conditions even as I approach the so-called "senior" years of age.

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