Masters Running: Do I have to slow down as I age? (And can I still get faster?)

Masters Running: Do I have to slow down as I age? (And can I still get faster?)

This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time. I started running rather late. I started in my late 30s and I’ve only been running for about 7 or 8 years. So just when I’m at the point where I’m consistent (mostly) in my running, I’m really enjoying it and I’m getting confident enough to try new races, distances etc., I’m faced with the fact that I’m getting old.

I’m only 44. I don’t think I’m old, and I don’t feel old, I just know it’s happening. I’m a master’s runner. Now is the time we start to lose upper and lower body strength, flexibility, muscular power and oxygen uptake… I’m not ready for that yet. That sounds depressing. I don’t think I’m as fast as I can get yet. I still have so many goals – what to do?

Well, I’ve started doing research – and no doubt I will do a lot more. And I will most likely change my mind many times about what are the best methods of training. And although there are quite a few articles, there weren’t as many as I would hope.  What did I find? Well, unfortunately not the magic easy fix that I was hoping for.

 I did, however, discover that it’s not quite as depressing as it seems. The decline is slower than you might think. After 40 we slow 1 – 2 seconds per mile per year for medium distance runners (10-15km) and 4 – 6 seconds per mile per year for marathoners. (Since I started late, I’m sure I have time to improve before my times start declining – I hope)

The article that I found most interesting was in Runners’ World on what we long distance runners can learn from sprinters. Apparently our stride frequency remains the same as we age, but our stride length decreases. By adopting the training methods that sprinters use, we can maintain our stride length, thus slowing the decline in our performance. According to the article, an added bonus to working on your fast-twitch muscles with speedwork, drills, plyometrics and weight lifting? A great sprinters butt. ;o

Some articles suggested, that when we enter the Masters category, it might be a good time to move our focus from big mileage to doing more high quality workouts and then onto proper recovery from those workouts. Stretching can also play an important role in minimizing the decline in our performance as we age. So, as a Masters Runner, training smart over training volume seems to be the most important thing.

And take heart, we runners tend to age slower than our sedentary counterparts, so, no matter what, we’re ahead of the game. 😉

The Toronto Waterfront Marathon  was my first marathon. That was the day that Ed Witlock broke the age-82 world marathon best by running 3:41:58 (he came in over 47 minutes ahead of me). I guess that answers my question. 🙂

Have you read any good articles on aging while running? What’s your best advice for the Master Runner?

– Jackie –Jackie


17 thoughts on “Masters Running: Do I have to slow down as I age? (And can I still get faster?)

  1. You and I are the same age… I don’t like to pay a lot of attention to my age. I figure it is what it is and I can’t fix it – but I CAN do my best and have a good time. I let the rest work out in the wash.

    Intriguing post. Nice work.

    • I don’t usually pay too much attention to age either Jim, but every once in a while I get caught up on my speed. But you’re right, if we’re doing our best and having a good time, how can we go wrong?

  2. Jackie! I know exactly where you’re coming from. Let’s all defy the odds, shall we?

    A client of mine read this book called “Older Faster Stronger”. It’s about women runners as they age. The author being in her 50s. I’m obviously not a woman runner but I’m an open-minded kind of guy 😃. I haven’t read it yet but I do have a hold placed on it in the library. Here’s more:

  3. I’m 45 and started running two years ago, so I hope I keep improving for awhile. I read that article about stride length, and even before I’d read it, I’d been actively looking into drills to improve my stride length (I’m short).

    I saw an article in a British running magazine that showed the MRI of a 70 year old runner compared to a sedentary 70 year old, and the muscle mass difference was astounding. So even if we get slower, we sure can help our bodies by not letting the muscles atrophy.

  4. I just had a masters runner guest post on this topic because I so want to stop people from saying their too old to run 🙂

    • I’ll have to check out that post. I was just reading another bloggers story about how her 60 year old mother started running with her. Yes, age shouldn’t stop you. I really enjoyed your post on nutrition and fueling your body BTW. It really hit home with me – I’m going try being more careful of what I eat! Thanks for the nudge. 🙂

  5. I’m over 50 and do see a change in my running. There is a need to run smarter instead of running more to avoid injuries. Instead of running 5 – 6 days a week, 3 days are quality runs (speed work, intervals, long distance) and 3 days a week are cross training. My running partner is 6 years older thn I and she is amazing (and fast!) She has cut down on running and has changed her fitness goals. We both know that someday we won’t want to run anymore….it just isn’t today.

    • I agree, I’ve found for myself, even in my forties, that 3 – 4 days a week of training works better than the 5 – 6 day a week training schedules. I need that extra time to recover. Good advice!

  6. I know of several masters runners who are kicking some serious butt right now. And you’re still making gains as a relatively new runner. Don’t worry! You still have many great years of running ahead of you!

  7. I started running regularly at 47. I’m 53 now and still improving, and even winning my age group at races. So don’t worry, youngster – there’s years of quality running ahead! I agree, however, that there should be more of an emphasis on quality over quantity.

  8. This is a timely post for me. Every race/season feels like a challenge to me now at my age to defy conventional views of aging. Thanks for following my blog!

  9. I ran my 3k PB last year at the age of 57, 5k,my 10k, half marathon etc PBs are still all in sight now….x

  10. My advice to runners of all ages is to stay within themselves, your body and spirit will let you know when it’s time to fly.

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