Ahh my 40s. Perhaps the best time of my life so far. Yet, things are different, as David Bowie says, I need to “turn and face the strange” especially when it comes to running. If you are my age or beyond, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
- Endurance. Take a look at the finishers in the longer endurance or ultra races. It is notable that most of those racing these longer races are in their late 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. This isn’t a coincidence–with age can come better long distance endurance. Our age group also has more available time if we have kids who are older or have flown the coop, which can lead to more training opportunities and more mileage to increase endurance.
- Listening to my body. Maybe better than ever, I can listen to my body and what it needs, having now inhabited it for all this time. I am more aware of the little twinges and feedback my body gives me to slow down or change a workout. I care for my body more than I probably ever did in my 20s or 30s (regretfully). I know better now more than ever when I need to slow down or take more time to recover. I have noticed that it takes more effort to recover between workouts, more effort to deal with those little twinges or injuries. Being a runner in my 40s means sometimes taking a step back in order to go forward.
- I know what I love to do, and appreciate being able to do it (with effort sometimes, but still I do appreciate it!). I have gratitude for continuing to have the ability to run, or to be active in other ways. I know what types of races I enjoy and where my favorite run locations are. If I want to scrap a workout right in the middle–f*ck yeah I’ll do it, because I know what I want to spend my time doing. Speaking of taking time to recover, most people in their 40s and 50s have had plenty of experiences with injuries that have forced them to do less, or not run at all for a while. This creates a different level of gratitude when coming back to running, and it keeps you far more honest with yourself.
The bad: (or is it?)
- Pace slows with age. It’s natural, and I know it’s coming. I can feel it. I know I’ll keep running, but there will be an adjustment phase. But when it does, I have to roll with it.
- My body is changing. It takes more work to do the same things. It takes more work to stay in shape. I’m not totally where I want to be, and I may never be again. At some point there has to be some acceptance and love for where I am and those perfectly normal changes my body will make in the next 10-20 years. I’m not saying it is easy. I’m struggling. Just writing this out is hard because it’s hard to accept and hard to be okay with it. It’s a roller coaster. I don’t know what my body is capable of, or what it will be doing next year, or in 5 years. I do know for now that I am motivated to keep it at its best…whatever that is.
So, is the bad really all that bad? Probably not, because it’s going to move me into new adventures, no doubt. From here, I can see there is more good than bad! What advice do you have for running in your 40s, 50s, and beyond?