Every year we log countless miles on roads and trails and add one more digit to our body’s clock. Running is clearly in our DNA. It was not long after we stopped crawling that we began tearing around the playground. Our “child’s play” of intermittent dashes across the field to the shouts of “Green Light!, Red Light!” or “Tag, you’re it!” was our form of “Fartlek” (Speed Play) now heralded as a sound training technique by coaches. Simple spurts of variable-paced efforts engaged fast-twitch muscles and the daylong outings increased our stamina as we chased our friends, real or imaginary, throughout the day.
Now, as adults, if we are lucky, the memories, the feeling of joy from running wild and free can return once again. One only has to lace up the shoes and head out the door. It’s amazing how this motion magically transforms us. It resets our body and mental clock taking us to a simpler time. The daily grind starts to disappear after a few steps out of the driveway. Our mind begins to wander as we warm up and we begin to contemplate what’s next.
Every five or 10 years we “Age Up,” or move into a new competitive age group. You are given a chance to be at the leading edge of your pack. Maybe it’s the 30-34 or 50-59 age group but it doesn’t matter your new age is “Only a Number.”
Many feel that peak running form is attained in a person’s 20s or 30s, at best 40. Peak performance and enjoyment are measured differently. Personally, being 50 is the new 30, and hitting 60 will be the new 40, based upon attitude and adopting running/walking as a lifestyle. Just look at the results of Mount Marathon and Crow Pass Crossing. Tom Coolidge and Ellyn Brown rock the 60-year-old division, besting most runners half their age. And Roger Kemppel hammers the Crow Pass Crossing within the six-hour time limit – it’s a demanding trail marathon he has completed multiple times as a masters runner.
This month you’ll see plenty of silver hair folks hustling past athletes half their age as they assault the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks (often billed as being one of the top-five toughest marathons in the United States). Here are three tips on how one can replicate these efforts.
First, be consistent with your training – run as a child with joy. Just get out there with your friends over a variety of terrain, regardless of the weather, and enjoy the journey.
Set a goal to strive for, and share it with family and friends. For me, it’s a return to Boston when I’m 60 and hopefully my first Mount Marathon. What’s yours?
Recognize that your rest days are valuable training days. Your body is recovering from the toils of the previous day’s efforts. Find the rejuvenating effects of an ice bath, and the nourishment derived from eating healthy.
No one knows when the man with the hood and sickle will come a calling, so make every day, every mile, count.
As always “Keep Striding and Smiling” – after all, it’s only a number.
— Coach Mike
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