One thing I learned from my experiences in taking up running late in life is that you can do pretty well everything everyone younger than you can do, but not necessarily at the same pace. Running programs are finally starting to realize that there are plenty of interested seniors out there, and customized programs for cropping up. What keen seniors can tell the young trainers is that we need more recovery time. Our bodies (in this case, our muscles) just don’t have the same ability to recover at the same rate. But give us that extra bit of recovery time and watch out!
In this strange year when I’ve gone back to work at one of these 24/7 jobs that seem to be altogether too prevalent these days, I find the same thing applies in that sphere. A senior can do it, but we need our recovery time. It turns out it takes a lot of energy to talk to people all day, listen to problems and keep the brain fully engaged. And that critical recovery time takes up the tiny bit of available non-sleeping time when, if we were younger, we might be able to engage in the “life” side of work-life balance. So, as the light at the end of this particular tunnel is now in sight (less than 3 months to go), I am looking forward to turning my seniors-reduced energy back to other passions, including writing and running.
The last time my running buddies (my husband and brother) and I participated in a long race together was October 2014, when we ran in the London Royal Parks Half Marathon (and if you find yourselves, like we did, unable to get a draw into the London Marathon, which is clearly beyond popular, then I highly recommend this half marathon as a good substitute). It was a wonderful experience, running by all the wonderful and iconic London landmarks, down the Pall Mall to Buckingham Palace, and through all the beautiful famous parks. But I was also discouraged about my personal efforts, and convinced myself that I should stick to 10Ks or even less … that I was just getting old. And then I found myself back at work and running went off the agenda, along with everything else. Until now.
A friend of mine – let’s call him Eloi – is rejoicing that he has just received his acceptance into the NYC Marathon for this November 2016. Rejoice he should. Running (I use that term loosely in my case) in the 2011 NYC Marathon remains a life experience that I treasure. I should add that there’s a bit more to the story of Eloi and our parallel running “careers”. We started running at about the same time when we were in our early 60s (I think his early 60s were a few years closer to early than mine, but there’s not a lot in it). We were both very enthusiastic about this new interest and shared tips as we started. His tip on employing Chi Running techniques was instrumental in alleviating most of my biomechanically-induced injuries, for which I remain eternally grateful.
What I learned through several years of training and going to amazing “destination” races was that if I worked hard enough, and spent enough time nursing injuries, I could actually complete long distances. In my own way, in my own time, as a lifelong non-athlete, I learned that running can be good for the soul. It gives you the chance to get in touch with yourself in unexpected ways. What a revelation. Becoming a recreational runner has enriched my life; I am reminded of how much I miss it.
What Eloi learned was that he is a natural runner! After running several half marathons and marathons with impressive results, he qualified for Boston. And last year he ran Boston in just over 4 hours. To put that in context, in neither of my two marathons did I quite break 5:45! What a wonderful surprise, to start running as a senior and discover that you have a gift.
But even without that gift it’s rewarding enough just to learn that you can put one foot in front of another and gradually go further each time you’re out. The gratification comes from being the best you can, not from being the best. In recreational running, everyone can be a winner. And that is what Eloi’s message of entry into the marvelous NYC Marathon has brought back to me. My feeling of discouragement at the end of the London Royal Parks Half Marathon was ill-founded. It was a feeling meant to be shaken off within a few weeks, but my life took an unexpected turn and running for any distance got put on the shelf. Time to dust off those sneakers and start running! See you on the trails.🙂