Hmm, my guess is that being able to run at 90 isn’t at the top of most people’s wish lists. Maybe being alive and healthy at 90? Maybe being alive at 90 only if healthy? But running, not so much so. [I do understand that more people than not can’t imagine wanting to run at any age!]
However, being a runner*, I sat up and took notice when this article appeared in the New York Times last month: These 90-year-old runners have some advice for you. Their main advice: Stay consistent, stay persistent, and stay in motion.
This article was inspired by the U.S. National Senior Games held recently, which included events ranging from the 50 m to the 1500 m. My favourite paragraph describing the scene was:
Many of the runners were 75 to 99 years old and didn’t pick up running until they were in their 60s [hey, that’s like me!]. Some needed a bit of assistance getting their shoes on before making their way to the start line. But all shared in their determination to compete — and to complete each race.
One participant/competitor explained, “I just enjoy it. I’ll keep going as long as my joints hold up.”
And there’s the rub for many of us. I’m one of those weirdos who love to run, even though being competitive has never ever been a remote desire or possibility. The great news is that you can enjoy every day that you’re out on the trails and you can enjoy the camaraderie of race events without worrying about “winning”; you don’t need to be competitive. As long as your joint holds out.
Unfortunately, my joints – or at least one hip joint – is winning this battle at the moment. Like most people who’ve ever tried running for more than a few weeks, I’ve had plenty of injuries that have sidelined my running from time to time: hamstring injuries, groin injuries, IT band tendonitis (I didn’t even know what the IT band was before I started running), sore foot, blisters, tight Achilles, you name it. It’s amazing how much you learn about your body when you devote time to running, or to any sport. Aside from what works and what doesn’t – and why – you become familiar with physiotherapists, massage therapists, ice packs, heating pads, and a wide variety of handy-dandy medications, supports and bandages, and kines tape. There’s a whole world out there just waiting to help you put yourself back in shape!
But joints filling up with arthritis turns out to be more stubborn. No amount of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is going to make the arthritis go away. I was one of the lucky ones who somehow managed to “come back from the edge” and start running again (slow, recreational, old-lady running) not once but twice after I thought my hip had won. This time I think it really has me. But … wait a minute, surgery might do the trick. If Andy Murray can play world class tennis with a metal hip, surely I should be able to engage in a little slow, recreational, old-lady running?!
Yvonne Aasen, 90, of Maryland, competing in the U.S. Nationals. That’s what I call inspiration.
No matter what happens next, I know to be appreciative of every step I take when I can take them. And I derive plenty of pleasure simply from reliving former running routes in my mind. Being able to conjure up the experience is almost like being back on the trails, covering the kilometers. Sigh.
* Runner: Someone who laces up their sneakers, heads out the door, and puts one foot in front of the other in a running-like motion, regardless of speed or lack thereof.