What does it feel like to run in my fifties? It is not that much different than in my forties. Since my peak performance years were in my early to mid-forties, it isn’t that much of a stretch to remain competitive and passionate about the sport in my fifties. I used to think that once I turned 50 I would have to stop running because I would no longer be able to compete at a decent level.
You get out of it what you put into it!
At any age, performing your best depends largely upon your training. I am still able to train at the same intensity that I used to, however, the will to train by following a set plan with high mileage has definitely diminished. The speed in my legs has also decreased. Gone are the days when I surprise even myself with the speeds I’m clocking on a downhill course. My legs just can’t seem to turnover with the ease that they used to. But on the flipside, I have been able to improve my turnover on the flat and gradual uphill sections of my training roads and paths. With focused effort on my form, I have improved! Of course, you don’t have to compete to be passionate about running! The true joy is in the journey, in the everyday running for the pure love of the sport, and the incredible feeling of forward movement. Sometimes people will say to me, “I’m not a real runner”. Real runners head out the door because they love running, or love trails, or love to experience nature and get outside!
Passion for Trails
I have a new passion for trailrunning and endurance adventures. Hitting the trails more often has increased my endurance and improved my ability to run up steep hills which has always been my weakness. It isn’t about the miles, but the time on your feet. I’ve met so many fantastic new trail adventurers to run with and am frequently in awe of my surroundings and the breathtaking beauty of where I get to live and train. My favorite thing about trail running is that I can run with a group of individuals with all different abilities. When I was younger I was so focused on just getting faster, but it is much more rewarding to focus on trail destinations. There is no pressure to slow down or keep up because we all stop frequently to take in the beauty! Running on trails is also much kinder to your joints and your body will thank you for staying off the pavement.
Recovery is Key
It is a known fact that our bodies need more recovery from an intense workout as we age. My body has always needed more recovery than my peers and I’ve always felt that I need more sleep than others. I cannot have a good workout if I don’t get a decent recovery day and 8 to 9 hours of sleep. I need a good 3 to 4 weeks to recover from a hard race. These are facts for me and I try to plan accordingly. So if I’m training for a marathon and I want to have a speedy track workout, or run with a faster friend, I’ll take it easy the day before. Otherwise my legs will just not run fast.
With age comes wisdom. I absolutely run and train more by feel and intuition than by following an exact training plan. This means taking more days off and just hiking with my dog, and focusing less on mileage and more on quality than quantity. A big lesson for me was that I realized I can’t spend all my time on the trails in training. If I only trailrun, then I slow down. For me it is important to incorporate at least half of my training on roads or flatter paths. However, if competition is not an issue and you are running for the workout or the sheer love of it, then pace is not important and you can focus on the destination. Nutrition is more important to fuel my body than it used to be. I believe in variety and incorporating as many vegetables as possible, but I love cheese and carbs and still eat meat, and I love wine. Wisdom has also taught me to run with friends and groups, do quality workouts on my own, stay consistent in training so I will not be disappointed in races. I am much more accepting of my performances at the finish line because I am just so damn grateful to be healthy, fit and out there competing at all! My best advice to age into running is to continue to set racing goals, look in the mirror less, and get outside more.
Feature Photo: Michelle Smith