Sun 17 Jun 2012
First of all, let’s define older runners. I will maintain that age is a state of mind, but for the purposes of this blog entry, let’s say “older” is 60 years old. Isn’t it funny how that perspective changes the older we get?
When I turned 40 and entered the Masters Division at road races, I remember disliking the term “Masters”, it seemed too old. I had just run my second marathon and broken the magic four-hour barrier at 3 hours and 55 minutes. Hell, I was only five minutes away from qualifying for the Boston Marathon—only five little minutes! I thought I was just scratching the surface of my running talent. I was seeing visions of Olympic stardom. Little did I know that I would be chasing that Boston dream for years and years before I finally qualified for the first time at the age of 54 with a time of 3 hours and 53 minutes—but that’s another story.
Now I am looking at 58 years old—right around the corner at the end of July. Wow, I’ll be 60 years old before I know it. Will I be old???
But I digress. There was an experiment published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which tried to prove the hypothesis that athletes over 60 are noticeably less efficient than those who are younger. The study revealed that the opposite was true.
When scientists fitted runners with masks that measured oxygen use while running on a treadmill, they discovered that runners 60 and older where just as physiologically economical as younger runners—even those in their twenties. Timothy Quinn, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Hampshire and lead author of the study, stated that contrary to their expectations, economy did not decline with age. Instead, the study suggested that aging lungs and leg muscles have no trouble using oxygen efficiently and that older runners can still be fast.
Whew, there is still hope for my future running goals. Maybe you don’t have the insane desire to run fast in your sixties. It doesn’t matter. The encouraging thought here is that we can do something now to stay fit and strong as we age. Isn’t living a life with good health and freedom of movement worth striving for?