Have you ever watched a runner, out there on the road? Did you wonder where he or she is headed? Is it to a particular street, store, path, or field?
Or is it to a fountain?
I’m convinced there’s something magical about running—something that defies all logic. It has to do with age. The sport of running completely changes what I’ve ever thought about growing older. I’m always fascinated whenever I see older runners racing against younger ones–and beating them. I’ve seen older runners running at paces I’ve never imagined possible for someone their age.
Take the people in my running group for example. Just last weekend, Tara was the first female finisher in a race. Tara is in her 40s. What about all the 20-something and 30-something women who also took part in that race? Yet, she came in first. This is not a “first” for her either! In that same race, of the overall top six finishers, two were in their mid- to late 40s, and two were in their 50s! I’ve also seen older runners winning many races.
Last year, at one of the local 5Ks, I remember Debbie (another person from my running group), coming in ahead of a boy who is on my son’s high school track team. The boy, who I recognized immediately, is a very fast runner. He was 15. And she’s in her 50s! Running group member Peter—who is also in his 50s, comes in among the top finishers at nearly every race he’s in—placing well ahead of dozens of guys half his age.
Now that I think about it, it seems like in nearly every race members of my running group are in, someone gets a PR (personal record). In most cases, the runner is in his or her 40s or 50s, since that’s the age of most of the runners in my group. Also, I always get very excited at races whenever I hear the oldest age group winners announced–who are sometimes over 80!
While I’m well aware our overall fitness level declines with age, I truly believe the aging process is significantly slowed down in runners. Sure, we experience all the physical signs of aging that everyone else does—greying hair, wrinkles, failing eyesight, and occasional soreness and stiffness. Yet, while I can’t speak for other runners, on the inside—where it really counts, I feel much younger than my true age. I attribute this to being a runner and keeping a healthy lifestyle.
According to a study in a recent article I read, for each year over 40, runners slowed by only about one second per mile per year. The study said “while oxygen uptake and heart rate decreases with age, running economy—a measure of how efficient you are—hardly decreases at all. The drop in race times is only about 1-2 seconds per mile per year for medium-distance races (10-15km) and 4-6 seconds per mile per year in the marathon. Training will slow the rate of decline and running economy will be maintained even into your sixties.”
All of this helps inspire me since I feel I have a long future in this sport, even though I started it later in life.
So, the next time you see a runner out there on the road, join him or her for awhile. Experience for yourself how it feels. Take a sip from that fountain of youth and discover your true age—on the inside, where it really counts.