If you’ve ever watched a marathon or looked at the lineup for the Olympic track events, you’ll likely notice something distinctive. Unlike many other events, runners tend to be older on average, even when competing at the highest level.
For example, this year, Allyson Felix will be competing in her fifth Olympic Games at age 35, with this year’s competition her first Games since giving birth to a daughter in 2018. Similarly, Stephanie Bruce, who is also a mother, won the 2020 New York City Marathon at age 37 – and the stats on age and running are similar for men. Simply put, this is a sport in which athletes can be exceedingly successful at both long and short distances, performing at their best at ages when athletes in other sports would be retired.
Of course, the types of athletes who win marathons and compete in the Olympics have spent the majority of their lives training for those moments, so if you’re a newcomer to running or to physical fitness in general, you may be wondering what this has to do with you. Even if you never win a race or tackle a distance like that covered in a marathon, experts agree that many people continue to become faster, stronger runners well into middle age. In fact, the average, non-elite runner may not peak until age 50, well after their elite peers.
If you’re interested in getting started as a runner, it’s never too late to rack up a few personal records (PRs). With the Demetz Online Personal Training run coaching program, you can work toward your goals, whether that’s increasing speed, building endurance, or training for a particular event or race.
The Ideal Age
Most people assume that the ideal age to start a sport is during early childhood, or a little later for activities like weight lifting, which aren’t safe for younger children. When it comes to running, though, there isn’t really a single ideal age. It’s safe for children to run shorter distances as long as they don’t train excessively, and many naturally athletic young people don’t really take to formal training in the sport until high school. More interestingly for adults, however, is that unlike sports that require more technique, it’s quite easy to pick up running, especially distance running, as an adult, and it may even be easier because of the discipline required.
Though there’s some debate over why runners peak at the age they do and why that peak is somewhat different based on distance and gender, it’s important to consider the impact of psychology on running, especially at longer distances. Running, particularly at marathon distances (26.2 miles/42 kilometers) is something of a mental game. You have to be strategic in terms of pacing, managing barriers like hills, puddles, or other runners, and pushing through fatigue, pain, and discomfort like dry mouth. Younger runners don’t always have the psychological tools to compete at this level, even if they have the physical stamina.
If you’re ready to start running, there are several steps you can take to help you create a plan. Even before you enroll in a plan like the Demetz run coaching program, consider doing the following:
- Explore Running Formats: If you aren’t engaged in a running community, you might only be familiar with a few different approaches to the sport, such as road races and track races. Another option you might want to consider is trail running, which takes place on uneven terrain like that you’d find in the woods. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with never racing at all. Lots of people enjoy going for regular jogs in their neighborhood or at a local track.
On the furthest end of the running spectrum in terms of distance and peak athlete age are ultramarathons, which are races that may cover distances of 50 to 100 miles. Ultramarathoners typically peak close to age 40, but few people will ever run such distances.
- Get Fitted For Shoes: If you wear the wrong size shoes or shoes that don’t fit quite right when walking or going to work, you’re unlikely to have any serious problems. Runners, on the other hand, can get seriously hurt if their shoes don’t fit correctly. Visit a store that specializes in running shoes for an evaluation and find a pair of shoes that work for you.
- Scope Our Your Area: Maybe you’re just planning to run on a treadmill at your local gym or a track by your house, or maybe you have no idea where you want to run. Check out your local area. If you want to work on your mile time and need to be able to record your splits (more on this later), you’ll want to choose a track or treadmill that will measure your distance, whereas if you’re working on endurance, you may have more options in terms of location.
- Learn To Time It: At Demetz Online Personal Training, we use the MyFitnessPal app to aid in workout tracking, but the more you run and the more competitive you get, the more you’ll want to know about timing your workouts. This can get a little complicated depending on the situation – timing an entire run is easier than recording your splits – but you’ll get the hang of it after a bit.
Recording your splits refers to timing how units of your workout break down so that you can compare them for consistency. This may mean timing every 200 or 400 meters of a mile when running on a track (a mile is 1600 meters or four laps or a conventional track), or it may just mean timing miles to improve your ability to pace yourself, which can help a lot when running in a race.
The Thrill Of The Chase
In addition to being a sport for people of every age, one of the best things about running is that it’s an opportunity to constantly compete against yourself, pushing to be better than you were the last time you laced up your sneakers, and a lot of people find that exciting. Instead of chasing a competitor, running lets your chase a better time or a more consistent split each and every day – but don’t worry if all this sounds intimidating because we’re here to help.
Contact Demetz Online Personal Training today to learn more about our run coaching program and start setting and crushing your goals. We pride ourselves on our individually tailored approach to all forms of fitness, and we’re excited to work with you, whether you’re a seasoned track star prepping for a race or a new runner just taking your first strides.