So You’re Past Your Running Prime. What Now?
Slowing down with age can be a bitter pill to swallow. And although slowing down is very much a relevant term, getting older and less nimble is a fact of life. So what do you do if your days of chasing PBs are over? Do you retire from running, frustrated and defeated? Do you take up bowling or croquet (not that there’s anything wrong with those disciplines!) and spend your twilight years wishing that you were out running instead? We think not. Your years as an older runner can be just as rewarding as your younger days spent chasing faster times. Here are some ideas for setting meaningful, fulfilling running goals when you’ve passed your running prime.
Use age grading to set new goals
Age grading is a wonderful way in which to compare your running performances to that of younger runners, or even to that of your younger self! It’s also a great goal-setting tool when you can’t quite match or beat the PBs of your youth any longer.
In short, your age graded score for a specific performance is expressed as a percentage of the current world record for that distance by someone of your sex and age. An age graded score of 70% for a race therefore means that your time is 70% as fast as the fastest possible time over that distance for a man/woman your age. (You can find two accurate, easy-to-use age grading calculators here and here.)
So start playing around with those age grading calculators. It will give you an idea of the times you need to clock in order to compete with your younger self, or with that ridiculously fast (young) bloke in your running club.
And you can even go one step further: Set yourself some annual age graded running goals. Because what that young, fast bloke in your running club doesn’t know, is that you actually might be outperforming him on a level playing field!
Focus on consistency
parkrun provides the perfect opportunity for chasing consistency goals as opposed to time-based goals. Run your way to a red Club 50 shirt by completing 50 parkrun events, or go for gold by aiming for the green Club 250 shirt or blue Club 500 shirt. And yes, you’re not mistaken. That coveted Club 500 milestone shirt can only be yours after ten years of consistent parkrunning. How’s that for a long-term running goal?! So get moving!
And if that’s not enough to get your competitive juices flowing, you can combine your Club 500 quest with earning your title as a “parkrun tourist”. parkrun tourists are a committed group of parkrun die-hards who’ve completed parkrun events at a minimum of 20 different parkrun venues in any country. So in addition to helping you stay consistent with your running, parkrun tourism will also help you explore your own country on the run. And frankly we can’t think of a better way to spend one’s old age.
But what if there isn’t a parkrun near you, you ask? Or if you’re looking for something a little more hardcore than completing a 5K parkrun event every weekend? Well, why not try a running streak? While the jury is still out on the pros and cons of this approach to running, it could be just what the doctor ordered to keep you motivated and consistent. Be sure, though, to listen to your body. If it begs for a break, then give it one. No running streak is worth a potential injury that could put you on the sidelines for months.
Try new types of events
If you’re unable to clock faster times over shorter distances, why not experiment with longer ones? Have you ever tried an ultra marathon? Or what about multi-stage races that stretch over a few days? Participating in events that focus on the experience rather than fast finishing times can be a very fulfilling way to race. There’s so much more to running than clocking PBs.
Explore on the run
Running and training don’t have to revolve around racing. Exploring in your running shoes can be a really exciting and fulfilling pastime. Why not sign up for a few guided running tours in your own city? Or why not make it your goal to complete a running tour in each major city in your country?
And if you really want to go all-out, why not set a goal of completing a race or run in every state or province in your country? Or, even better yet, complete a race on every continent on the planet? The options are endless, really. Find what makes you tick, and tailor-make an exploration-running goal that excites you. And then go for it!
Run for the love of it
One of the perks of growing older as a runner is the fact that, somewhere along the line, you get an appreciation for running simply for its own sake. You learn to find joy in the act of running itself. No race medals, PBs or shiny new gear required. So think about what running has given you over the years. And remember how it makes you feel. The beauty and freedom of running in nature. And the joy of returning home, buzzing with endorphins. Then build on that. Do you really want to give it all up simply because you’ve lost your speed? We didn’t think so.
Whatever running goal(s) you decide to pursue in your golden years, make them fun and fulfilling. And remember to listen to your body and be safe. This might just turn out to be the most enjoyable running chapter of your life!