Late Start: The Benefits to Starting Running Later in Life
“It’s easy for you. You are just a natural because you’re built like a runner.”
I hear some version of these sentiments quite often. While I appreciate what I believe to be compliments, I can assure you that these things are simply not true. You see, I didn’t even start running until I turned 30. Now, a little more than a decade later, I have made myself into a runner. If you find yourself a little later in life wishing you started running ages ago, never fear. I promise you, there are benefits to starting to run at any age.
If you need more inspiration before you read on, just look to runner Fauja Singh. He started running to cope with the loss of his wife—at age 89! He went on to become the first 100 year old to run a marathon. He turned 106 in 2017 and was still running marathons at that age. So I challenge you with these words– if he can do it, can’t you do it too?
What’s so great about starting to run later in life? Here are just a few of the benefits.
You Have More Free Time
Star athletes can be created at any time— if they have the time. If you’re in your twenties and thirties you are often just starting your career and/or family. You may find that you have to be at the office early or late. Or both! At the same time, you may be using your free time to hang out with friends and seek that special someone in the bars and clubs. If you are a female, then you might throw in pregnancy and motherhood on top of whatever else you have at work.
All of this leaves little time to properly train as a runner. All of this definitely leaves very little time or energy to run. Starting to run later in life, once you are a bit more settled, allows you to develop a proper running schedule.
You Want to Be Here for a Long Time
The benefits of exercising at any age are long and plentiful. At the top of the list of benefits of exercising as an older adult are the following: weight loss/maintaining a healthy weight, decrease chance of heart disease, strengthening of bones, prevention of high blood pressure or diabetes, and fostering an alert and healthy brain. If you start in your 40s or 50s you can help prevent issues that would have come down the road.
But I can’t start running in my 60s/70s/80s you say? Why not? If you’re lucky enough to have grandchildren, I guarantee they will love the fact that their grandparent can play tag in the yard with them or can walk/job along beside them as they learn to ride a bike. These days our life expectancy is higher than ever. 70 is the new 50! Starting a running regime (with your doctor’s approval) could prolong your life and I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful things to stick around for.
You Can Feel Like a Superstar
Many women celebrate their 40th birthday with tears and nostalgia for their twenties. They may bemoan their new wrinkles and grey hair. It would not be far off to suggest that some may even feel depressed when they hit this milestone. I, on the other hand, welcomed forty with open arms. Why? Because it meant that, as a runner, I was now in the Master’s division! And, you know what? I could win in the Master’s division! Suddenly I won cash prizes and trophies. People started to recognize me at smaller races. I made some running friends who were old ladies like me. With the newfound excitement of being a Master, I started to run farther and faster than I ever have before.
It does not end at forty either! At fifty runners are placed in the Grandmaster category. By sixty you enter the Senior Grandmasters. As the competition field wanes, the likelihood of you being a superstar runner increases. For me, though, the best thing about turning forty was getting five extra minutes to qualify for Boston. In 2017, I was able to beat my new qualifying time by 4 minutes and 23 seconds. I’ll be in Boston this April!
Runner Friends are Friends For Life
If you’re in a season of your life where friendships seem to take a backseat, come and go, or hardly exist at all, running can help. Once you start to run, you are a runner. It does not matter how fast or how slow you may be. A runner is a runner. And runners are lifelong friends.
There is a unique unity among the running community that is like no other I have ever experienced. From the nonchalant head nod as you pass one another on the sidewalk to the buddy you met at a run club that goes out for a beer afterwards, there is no telling how many friends you can acquire by becoming a runner. Whether you run together or you just talk about your running with one another, there will be a bond like no other between you and your runner-friend.
Some of my dearest friends are, or have been, people I run with. I know these people inside and out. If you hit mile 10 together and you think there is nothing more to talk about, I can assure you, there is plenty more to talk about. Besides, no one at your office will understand chaffing quite the same way as a running friend.
If you’ve used your age as an excuse to avoid running, consider that bunk. Get out there and show that pavement who’s the boss. Or at least who’s a Master.