It’s never too late: Running over 50

Running over 50

Running over 50? Actually I know a lot of really good runners who are over the age of 50. One good example is a runner I met on my last race in Central Park. While I was waiting in front of the bathroom at my race last Sunday, I had the chance to talk to a pretty inspiring old lady. I was chatting about stretching and that some people like to do it before a run, some people don’t and how my preferences are (I’m “team stretching afterwards”). The New Yorker lady feels the same, she told me. She prefers to stretch after her runs too. And here we were, I still don’t know her name, but this inspiring woman told me her story.

Running marathons over 50

Since we were running the Marathon Kick Off race she told me that she became a runner when she was over 50. “Yeah, I don’t wanna end up old and inflexible. I wanna stay in a good physically shape!”. She ran her first marathon when she turned 55 and her second one with an age of 65. “Running is fun to me, I don’t wanna be like everybody else in my age: hanging out on the couch all day”. Running marathons over 50 is something totally doable.

There is no such thing as someone who is too old to start running. Running beginners over 50 become more and more. Why? Running helps to slow down the effects of ageing, improves the health, fitness and mobility of older people, and improves psychological health.

“I do a lot of races here in New York, I really don’t care how slow I run, my goal is to cross the finish line without an ambulance.” I was pretty impressed because most of the people I know in her age are couch potatoes who barely are being active. She is right though it’s never too late.

Benefits of running over 50

The health benefits of running are broadly the same for older people as for everybody else. They include reductions in the risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer; reduced depression and anxiety; weight control; improved bones, muscles and joints; improved mobility and coordination. Running over 50 also has a psychological sense of well-being.

What is especially important for older people is that the risk of developing these conditions grows as you get older, so the benefits of running are increased. It is especially important for older people that running can improve muscle strength, coordination and bone density, all reducing the risk of falling and fracturing bones, and so increasing the prospects for living independently.

Tips for runners over 50

  • take more rest days between sessions, and avoid overtraining;
  • increase the variety of your aerobic training, for example by aqua-running, cycling, swimming, and skiing;
  • warm up carefully before running, and stretch afterwards, to protect muscles which are less elastic and more prone to injury than they were when you were younger;
  • increase your weight training, to compensate for the decline in muscle mass which you would otherwise experience.

Older runners: Big goals

Canadian athlete Ed Whitlock ran a marathon in 2:54:48 at the age of 73.  Carlos Lopes set the world marathon record at the age of 38.   Hal Higdon, marathon runner and writer, at the age of 52 ran a 10km in 31:08 and a marathon in 2:29:27.

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