'Everyone will face this'
Plus 5 in-person races still running this fall, in California, Colorado, North Carolina + Buckinghamshire, England
This week’s essay is one I’m really excited to share with you. It’s by Amanda Loudin, who’s written widely on running, fitness and health for publications like Runner’s World, ESPN, Outside and many others. I hope you love it as much as I do. 👍 — Terrell
When 52-year old Christina Chung heads out for a run these days, it’s often for time rather than distance. She also runs lower mileage than she used to, and finds her way to trails as often as possible. All are part of her strategy to continue running well into her later years.
But her approach goes beyond the physical. Chung, a law professor at the Albany Law School, recognizes that as she gets older, her running life will change. Instead of fighting it, she’s embracing it.
“At the end of the day, I’m a recreational runner and nothing depends on my running performance,” she says. “There’s no point in focusing on the fact that I’m slowing and feeling down about it.”
Presuming you have similar, long-term running goals, there’s much you can learn from the likes of Chung and other runners.
“At the end of the day, I’m a recreational runner and nothing depends on my running performance. There’s no point in focusing on the fact that I’m slowing and feeling down about it.”
While right now you might still be able to knock out a couple of solid speed sessions per week and continue to take time off your races, the day will come when that won’t be the case. Having some strategies in mind now can help set you up for success when that day arrives.
Before you take action, however, it’s important to understand some of what will happen as your runner’s body ages.
There’s “a lot that happens” as you age, says running coach Jason Fitzgerald, of Strength Running. “Part of it is structural and part of it is hormone related.”
Muscle loss is one of the biggest impacts runners face, slowly at first — in your 30s — and begins to accelerate around age 40, and once again at about age 60. In general, count on a loss of around three to five percent each decade. By the time you hit 70, that can total up to around a 30 percent loss in overall mass.
This impacts your running in several ways: You’ll lose speed, for one. You become more susceptible to injury, for another. The upside is that you can do something about it, says Fitzgerald. “If you get in early on a strength training routine, it will help offset the losses,” he explains. “You don’t have to be a gym rat, either. Two or three times a week is plenty.”
You’ll also feel hormonal differences as you age and your levels drop. This results in slower recovery, for one. Chung says that she feels this difference, as well as her body’s inability to warm up quickly compared to her younger days.
“I have to pay more attention to my body’s signals,” she says. “I need to ease into my runs more and when I’m finished, I can’t just hop in my car and head off to my desk — I need a good cool down.”
Fitzgerald says it’s likely you’ll need to space out your hard efforts more as you age, and that there are intuitive ways to gauge this — no watch necessary — when you’re ready for a speed session. “Soreness is a great indicator,” he says. “If you’re a mile or two into a warm up and still sore, that’s a good sign that you’re not ready to take it up a notch.”
In addition to losing muscle mass, your aging body will also lose bone density. Again, strength training can help offset the negative impacts—which might include increased chances for stress fractures or standard fractures if you fall.
Speaking of falling, balance begins to decrease as you age, as well. Add in drills to help with the balance, eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and talk to your doctor about other nutrients you might be missing to stay in top shape.
“My biggest change is that I’m kinder to myself these days. Even if I don’t reach a goal, it doesn’t invalidate what I’m doing. I still love running and can still experience joy from it.”
Once you hit 60 and the affects of aging really begin to compound, your ability to manage speed work can get more difficult. “Now’s the time for fewer fast workouts and when you do them, make sure they’re strategic, not just for the sake of doing speed,” Fitzgerald recommends.
If all this sounds like a bitter pill to swallow, taking a page from Chung’s book is a good idea. “It doesn’t mean you have to run without goals,” she says. “But my biggest change is that I’m kinder to myself these days. Even if I don’t reach a goal, it doesn’t invalidate what I’m doing. I still love running and can still experience joy from it.”
Fitzgerald — who is in his 30s and is only just beginning to experience age-related changes, concurs.
“There’s a certain comfort in knowing everyone will face this,” he says. “When you take control of the aging process, it’s empowering. I’m doing things to make my actual age pale in comparison to how I feel and look.”
In-person races running this fall
South Lake Tahoe, Calif. | Friday-Sunday, Oct. 9-11, 2020
As of today (Aug. 11), organizers for this race say odds are “80-20” in favor of running this race in person. You’ll get to choose among three 13.1-mile races this weekend of events along the beautiful shores of California’s Lake Tahoe, which lies along the state’s eastern border with Nevada and provides plenty of scenic — and rugged — terrain for the weekend’s races.
$115 and up | Sign up here
Buckinghamshire, England | Friday, Sept. 25, 2020
Planned to be run “in a safe, socially distant way,” organizers say, this race will unfold through the countryside of Wormsley, a 2,700-acre estate nestled in the Chiltern Hills of Buckinhamshire. “This event will be a trail run with limited places, staggered arrival times and no spectators to ensure social distancing, but it will also be a beautiful run and a fantastic way to return to racing safely,” they add.
£40 and up | Sign up here
Avalon, Calif. | Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020
A great race for trail runners or those looking for a new challenge — organizers say it’s “the hardest race you’ll ever love!” — this event features gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged terrain and lots of elevation change.
$120 and up | Sign up here
Cary, N.C. | Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020
Located between nearby Raleigh and Chapel Hill, N.C., Cary boasts some 90 miles of walking and running trails that wind through forests, past lakes and through neighborhoods — and that’s where you’ll run this early fall race. Organizers say they’ll provide notice no later than 2 weeks before the race if their plans change.
$55 and up | Sign up here
Golden, Colo. | Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020
It’s the most challenging half marathon you can run anywhere in Colorado’s Front Range Mountains, organizers say, along a beast of a route that climbs more than 2,900 feet over the course of 13.1 miles. “Enjoy the aggressive elevation gain, we promise you won’t feel shafted,” they explain, as you run through waist-high grassy meadows, along rocky downhill dirt trails and gravel paths that look out onto gorgeous views of the valley below.
$90 and up | Sign up here
Great running reads
“Taking your workout outdoors is the smart way to train. Exercising outdoors is where we can distance ourselves the farthest and safest.”
“There are no major differences between the two at the speed where most recreational athletes run at, even though it is commonly believed they are really different.”
“It’s nearly as crucial to name what we need — from canines, loved ones, and leaders — as it is to protect ourselves from the virus. We must sit and wait and want, and then, when the time is right, leap at the chance.”
“This isn’t to say you shouldn’t track or share any progress. Just do yourself a solid and crop out your GPS map and location.”
A song to run to today
“Run Wild” by Laney Jones.
Want to hear all the songs from our newsletters? Our full playlist contains 7 hours, 55 minutes of music to run to.
👉 Bored with your music? Here’s great running music you all shared last Friday.
Words to run by
“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life.”
— Haruki Marukami, author of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running