August 18 2017
One runner shares her long history with ultrarunning and explains how the sport helped her heal from a major surgical mistake.
They say life is like a marathon. What they don’t tell you is that in that marathon of life, how you run the race inevitably changes thanks to the unavoidable aging process. But fear not! While there are some differences in each decade of your running career, there are lots of things to look forward to as you get older, too (and not just velour track suits). Behold, your running past, present and future:
Ah, youth. When you’re a kid, running is pure happiness. Running means games of tag, Saturday morning soccer and speeding through the sprinklers. The only competition you face is an elementary school fun run and who can get to the ice cream truck first. Basically, running is SO MUCH FUN.
Your high-school running years are all about trying out the different track teams. Maybe you’re a sprinter, or maybe cross-country calls to you. Or maybe teams aren’t your thing and you prefer to run on your own while you listen to your angsty teenage playlist and imagine finally telling your crush how you feel. Either way, your hormonal teen years are the time when you first fall madly, deeply in love with running. Not to mention this is the golden age when you can get away with more neon, spandex and leggings-as-real-pants than you will for the rest of your life-enjoy it while you can.
Your 20s can be a real rollercoaster in your running career. While there may be times when you let your workouts slide (cough, discovering the joys of happy hour, cough), this is also the decade where many runners become serious enough to train for their first big race. This is the ideal time to try out a half or go for a full-on marathon; at this age you have the fitness, time and self-confidence to believe you can do anything. One final note: this will also be the only time in your life you have the stamina to go out on a Friday night and then rally for a long run on Saturday morning, so cherish it.
Related: Running in Your Twenties
This decade can be a whirlwind, thanks to life-changers like new jobs, marriage and kids. For some runners, that might mean scaling back on workouts thanks to major time constraints. But those same changes can light a fire under you, too. Your 30s are when you become more organized and determined; you learn how to schedule your workouts the same way you schedule your kids’ activities or deadlines at work to make sure they’re prioritized. You may also adopt a bit of the superwoman complex that often plagues women, but in a good way- you want to give 100% to every aspect of your life and feel inspired to train for a new distance or try out a triathlon. Not to mention if you have kids, stroller running will add a whole new dimension to your workouts—be prepared for some seriously envy—inducing biceps.
Related: Running In Your Thirties
No mid-life crisis here—turning the big 4-0 means dominating in a new age group, setting yourself up to combat the negative effects of aging, and continuing to look your best in your skinny jeans (no mom jeans here, thank you very much). Your 40s are a golden age for running- your kids are a bit older, you’re more settled in your career, and there’s a (little) more time to focus on yourself. That’s why this is the time when runners may decide to change their mileage goals or sign up for a challenging race. Even though your metabolism is slowing down, you don’t have to; you may have to spend a little more time in the weight room and be a bit more regimented with your diet, but it’ll be well worth it when everyone around you is starting to gain weight or become more sedentary while you’re setting PRs in better shape than ever.
Related: Running In Your Forties
There’s something magical that happens when you hit this decade. At the halfway point in your life you probably feel a lot more comfortable in your skin, and you care less about what other people think. So while runners at this age might slow down a little, the good news is it doesn’t matter because running becomes more about fun and personal satisfaction than keeping up with younger runners. Older runners are also wiser runners; they know better and don’t mess around with sun protection, bone health or cross-training. You may develop a few post-run aches and pains you don’t remember having before (seriously, are your knees actually creaking?) but investing in an economy-size bottle of ibuprofen will ease them and help you continue to invest in your healthy future.
Related: Running In Your Fifties
While retirement may be on the horizon, slowing down isn’t. Ok, technically your pace might be slightly more sluggish, but your drive and enthusiasm is still in full force. With more free time as your career winds down and the kids off to or out of college, many sixtyish runners commit to the sport more than ever. Not to mention you’re experienced in both the sport and life; you know what works for you on the roads, but you also have the smarts and humility to know when things need tweaking. And while non-runners your age might be heading towards hip replacements, you’re heading towards the high school track with the hip teenagers- not too shabby for 60.
Related: Running In Your Sixties and Beyond
70s and beyond
Tween track stars? Mid-twenties marathoners? They ain’t got nothing on runners in this decade. While many of your fellow septuagenarians have retired to a life of powerwalking the mall, over-70 runners are not only growing in numbers, they’re kicking ass. These aging athletes aren’t just slow-jogging around the track; you’re running multiple miles a day and racing 5ks, half marathons and more. And while you may be chasing the ice cream truck for the bone-strengthening calcium now, running is still as much fun as it was when you were a kid.