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?