An “Older” Runner’s Thoughts

I started running when I was twenty-five years old. I was self-taught. I wore baggy cotton shorts, tee shirt and Keds™ shoes. I was often the only woman in the male bastion of joggers at the Polo Field at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Regardless, I loved running, the freedom, the ease of movement, and the friendships made.
Twenty-five years later, with the running world an entirely different beast than when I began, I ran my first marathon at the age of 58. I finished, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I was pale, stiff, tired, and cold; yet, I couldn’t wait to run again! I thought about my next goals. If I trained with a coach, focused on intervals, hill repeats, endurance, core strength and flexibility exercises, all those things I should have done the previous fall, I wondered if I might be competitive at local or regional events in my [older] age group. This was clearly magical thinking. Within weeks of more intense training, I suffered a debilitating, almost five-year, hamstring injury, a major hiatus for a life-long runner.
Still, something deep inside compels me to want to excel at this sport, even with the set-backs, the constant rehabilitation, the progression to the senior masters-age category. I see talented runners not much younger than, or even older than, me. Could I do what they are doing? Or is it too late? Should it matter?
I am learning more about physiology and kinesiology than I ever imagined. Our muscles take about 90 days to see an increase in strength, so it’s relatively easy to find measurable improvement in the distance we can run with consistent training. Our tendons and ligaments, however, require much more time, maybe more than two times longer, than muscles to gain strength. Unless we pay attention to all areas of the body, we are likely doomed. So, I am forced to incorporate into my daily life strength exercises and stretching, cross training, better nutrition and hydration, and importantly, rest.
I want to run a half marathon again. Really though, I want to run until I can no longer move. I want to run past the pain, fly down the road, and stop beating myself up. Each day that I can lace up my running shoes, head out the door to the trail and run with an economy of movement and steady breathing, is a good day. I need to embrace what I can do and strive to get better. I would like to run longer distances, shave seconds off each mile, and make myself proud of what I can do. I joyfully embrace each mile run, as a runner, not just an older woman out on the narrow roads and trails, in colorful running shoes with a Garmin watch on her wrist.

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