Some of my best thinking comes while I’m running. When I was working, I would find myself thinking through work issues while running. I was often pleasantly surprised by the solutions that seemed to come to me out of nowhere while I was out on a trail by myself. Similarly, I now find I can resolve creative challenges while running or walking alone, whether it’s how a story should evolve, what a new character should be called, or how a quilt pattern could be adapted. Running spurs inspiration.
I have always loved running, but until I retired my running had been pretty well limited to preparing each year for the annual 10K Terry Fox Run in September, during which I would somehow make my way to the finish line through a combination of running and walking. Typically, I would find myself finishing after those who ran the 10K and before those who walked it – my own niche. But I loved the feeling of freedom I got when I was running. One of my first retirement goals was to embrace the opportunity to run more. I could now put the time in without having to run early in the morning or at night in the dark. I might love running, but I’ve never been keen on anything that interrupts my sleep!
So my running story is about a woman with no history of athletic endeavour who became more serious about running at age 63. The good news is that it is indeed possible to build strength and distance in your “golden years”. Putting in the time makes a difference. The caveat is that there is not much knowledge among all the well-meaning running enthusiasts, experts, and trainers about specific challenges of older runners. There are articles meant for older runners, but these are typically for people in their 40s who have run competitively for years, not for true novices in their 60s. In the past two years my husband and I have run 6 half marathons together, and my brother and I completed our first marathon – the New York City Marathon – this past November. These events have provided enormous personal satisfaction. But I have encountered many challenges that were not easily resolved by going to “the experts”. I have learned a lot that I look forward to sharing through this blog with others who have similar physical injuries or weaknesses.
As a first pass, some of the most important things I have learned about long distance running at an “advanced” age – through inevitable injuries and trial and error recovery – are:
- Older people cannot use the training programs that have been put in place for younger people. Older people need more recovery time between runs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run, it just means you need at least one day off between any meaningful run.
- When (not if) you get an injury, rest. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run, it just means that you can’t abuse yourself and get away with it.
- Doctors don’t always know a lot about athletic injuries. Try to find a sports-oriented doctor, preferably one who has been injured at some point. Know your own body. Read (lots of) postings on the Internet to find what works for you. Find a good massage therapist. Find a good physio. It’s all worth it!
- An “older” non-athlete really can train her body to cover miles she thought were impossible. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.