Athletics Magazine

Getting Older? Running Can Save Your Life

By Brisdon @shutuprun

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to keep running until I die. I hope to be the one raising money to build a track around my nursing home where I can do my Yasso 800s before a lunch of strained peas and fruit cocktail. Okay, maybe speed training will not be in the cards (or the Bingo game), but I fully intend to run until my body gives out on me (hopefully this will not be later this year).

One true advantage of continuing to run while I age is that I just might be able to qualify for Boston one more time in my life. The standard to qualify when you’re 80+ years old? 4:55 for men and 5:25 for women. I wonder if they allow walkers (not walking, but an actual device that helps you walk) on the course.

Getting Older? Running Can Save Your Life

Harriett Anderson, age 77,  was one of my fellow Athleta sponsored athletes last year. She just completed the Ironman World Championships in Kona and has done countless IMs. Amazing!

My desire to run to my grave is precisely why I loved an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday: “Marathon Runners Stop Aging Out of the Race.” What I learned made me smile. Did you know that runners who are 50 years and older are becoming one of the fastest growing age groups in marathons?

Certainly, continuing to run as you get older is not without risks. As the article points out,

The stresses of long distance running are harder on aging joints, feet, muscles and backs, leaving older marathoners more prone to injury than younger competitors.”

On the flip side, running keeps you younger as you age. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, depression and other diseases. No doubt running can improve one’s quality of life. Some studies have even shown that runners live longer because running keeps every organ system in your body healthy. Lastly, did you know that running can create new cells in the brain that actually boost memory? {source}

That said, as we age, how can we combat the risk of injury and continue to be healthy and strong runners? Let’s face it, just like recovering from an all-nighter at a frat party is much easier when you’re 21 than when your 41 (you shouldn’t be there anyway if you’re 41, what’s wrong with you?), recovering from long runs or races takes more out of you as you get older. (Hell, I know some 21 year olds who could probably run a marathon after an all-nighter at a frat party).

Here are a few ways to remain a healthy runner as you age:

  • Scale back. If marathon or half marathon training, consider doing a long run every other week as opposed to every week.
  • Chill out. Remind yourself as you get older that you are running because you love it and for the health benefits. You don’t always have to try to be competitive in races and to obtain new PRs. Slowing down and focusing on your love for the activity may lessen your chance of injury.
  • Alternate running days with low impact days that include swimming, yoga, getting on the elliptical or cycling.
  • Rest and recover. Yes, this is important for any runner, but it becomes even more important as you age. After a hard running day, consider taking two easy days instead of just one. The same goes for recovery time after a race.
  • Build strength. Sure strength training can be ho-hum compared to running, but it is an essential component to staying healthy as you age (see sample basic strength training plan for runners HERE).
  • Hit the trails. The soft surface and varied terrain of trails can be easier on the body than running on asphalt or cement. However, do watch out for roots, rocks, dead bodies, etc, because falling is a reality on the trails.
  • Drink up. Did you know that as you age, your ability to feel thirst becomes less strong? This means you might not feel thirsty, but your body desperately needs hydration. One way to know you’re getting enough fluid is too look at your pee. Your goal is to have urine the color of lemon juice. HERE is a good guide to what your pee color is trying to tell you.

Here’s to a long life filled with running and lemon juice piss!

Are you an “older” runner (40+)? How do you stay healthy? Yes! I am 45 and ran my first marathon at 41. Hope to be doing this for awhile!

Do you see yourself running until you die (or at least until you can no longer walk)?


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