5 advantages of running in old age

Earlier this week Facebook showed me one of their “Memories” posts, reminding me of a truly family-filled Mother’s Day 10K in Toronto 5 years ago, shared with my husband, 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, 1 brother, and 1 nephew. Pretty special. This FB memory happened to pop up as I was recovering from the 10K I had participated in the day before – Mother’s Day this year – as part of our local Fredericton Marathon Weekend. The only other family participation this time was my husband dropping me off and picking me up, but it was still lots of fun with lots of fellow participants. What a great way to start Mother’s Day, and what a spectacular spring day it was.

Sporting Life 10K, Toronto, 2013

Thinking of the two Mother’s Day runs, 5 years apart, got me contemplating changes in the approaches to running in our household and in our family at large. The younger people, who actually do what most people would call running, are too busy with their work and family lives to take the time to run (even though it would help alleviate all that stress!). The older people, my husband and I (and to a much lesser extent my brother), have slowed down because of various body parts telling us that our past enthusiastic schedule doesn’t mesh with the recovery times necessary for these aging bodies. BUT, once you’ve got this message from your body, you can work with it. And, with that in mind, I’m here to preach for the advantages of taking up (semi-) long distance running as a retirement activity.

It is true that most people don’t think that running and aging go well together. But that is because most people think of running as going fast. Not true at all. First of all, most recreational runners these days are converts to interspersing running segments with walking segments, for many excellent reasons. And there’s nothing that says that your walking segments can’t be a lot longer than your running segments. Say, 5 minutes of walking, 30 seconds of running, repeat. That’s a good start. And, presto, you’re a runner! After that, who knows, perhaps you’ll feel like decreasing your walking segment slightly and increasing your running segment slightly. Etc. Gradualism in all things.

Advantages of running as an old(er) person:

  1. If you’ve never indulged in much athletic activity before now, you probably still have good knees. Huge advantage!
  2. Feeling your body be able to move like that, even for short periods of time, is life-affirming.
  3. If you motivate yourself by signing up for a local run/walk race, you will be joining a very welcoming community. Running communities celebrate all ages, all shapes and sizes, and all ability levels. And to prove it, every participant who crosses the finish line gets a medal. There’s no reason not to start your medal collection in your 60s; it worked for me! Everyone’s a winner in running.
  4. If you’re competitive by nature (which I’m not), then it’s your time to be competitive, because there’s hardly any competition in your age group! Case in point:
    • 2018 10K             F70-79 = 1       M70-79 = 4      Total participants = 554
    • 2016 10K             F70-79 = 1       M70-79 = 1      Total participants = 209
    • 2013 10K             F65-69 = 61     M70-74 = 42   Total participants = 21,858
    • NYC Marathon  F65-69 = 155                              Total participants = 50, 641
  5. We oldsters have the wisdom, finally, to listen to our bodies. When there is a pain, we take a few rest days to give those pains time to subside. We truly understand that rest days really are an important part of training. We no longer push past injuries to our detriment, as we used to, and it helps us keep running. Not as fast, not as often, but we’re out there feeling alive.

Why don’t you give it a try?!

Fredericton Race Weekend 10K 2018

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2 Responses to 5 advantages of running in old age

  1. Jane Fritz says:

    Equally nice reply, Roy, thanks! I think you nailed when you spoke about how satisfying a finish can be. For some of us (you and my older son, for example), pushing yourself to finish ahead of your identified competition is what gives that extra dose of satisfaction. As my son would say, “It’s called a race, Mom.” For others, like me, there’s the satisfaction of finishing, period. I undoubtedly keep the challenge of trying to beat someone way on the backburner because I know it’s not going to happen. Until now, of course, when I can come in 1st – out of one!

    And many thanks for the coaching tip, lol. Pretty impressive to have a coach who’s 1000s of miles across the sea. Now, when I’m out on the trails, I’ll continue to concentrate on my Chi position, thanks to another running friend, but also concentrate on my arms and think of you! Maybe that’s just what I’ve been missing. 😉

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    I’m way behind with my inbox but just had to open this one Jane 🙂 How right you are, on all counts. Though I guess I’m at the stage now when I know that if I stop running/racing for any length of time I’ll never start again.

    Rightly or wrongly I’m still trying to emulate my best times. I suppose I know that they’re out of reach but aiming for them keeps me honest. And it’s also very satisfying to note that I/we can still finish ahead of some much younger and fitter-looking people (in Open races anyway. In club races I’m down with the dead men).

    Last Sunday, at the end of a tough and hilly 13k race I had a great sprint battle at the end with another guy. We both finished laughing our heads off.

    But I now also enjoy social jogging – our Super Slow sessions in the midweek are proving popular this year.

    And finally Jane, may I say, with my coach’s hat on, how good you’re looking there – nice, upright position, knees bent on impact, though maybe your arm pull-through could be straighter 🙂

    Thanks for a nice post.

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