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Where will you be with your running in thirty years?

03/05/2011

Ever since I graduated from college in 2009, I have been living life in constant denial about the idea of planning for the future.

Prime example: My AmeriCorps term is up at the end of July. What am I doing next, you ask? Am I researching graduate schools? Am I applying for jobs, updating my resume, crafting slickly targeted cover letters? Am I doing any life planning more extensive than occasionally typing inane search terms into job engines, or even worse, turning to Google for the answers to life’s more perplexing questions?

"Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"

Nope, haven’t done any of those responsible things. There’s a reason this blog is named Sweaty KID and not Sweaty Adult. (Which reminds me, Dad, wanna do my taxes again this year?)

That said, I’ve watched enough Sopranos to know that there are career options out there for people like me.

#1. Join the mafia:

All-you-can-eat pizza? Kevlar vests? Cement shoes? I'm in!

Ha. Ha.

Anyway, back to the main point of this point: Looking ahead to the future.

Between my upcoming March birthday and the injury parade this winter, I’ve started thinking that even if I can’t sort out my “real life” future, I can at least think ahead for my running future.

I figure this next decade-and-a-half will be the time to pursue the very best running and racing performances I’m capable of laying down, due mostly to the ease of youth.

On the one hand, I want to take advantage of this by pushing my body to it’s limits.

On the other hand, I don’t want to have to stop running early on in life due to accumulating so many chronic injuries that it isn’t even fun or satisfying anymore.

My perpetually stiff knees and left ankle already create a sweet symphony akin to that of milk poured over a fresh bowl of Rice Krispies every time I bend or stand up. And this bursitis/neuroma thing in my left foot hasn’t budged since it flared up in October, metatarsal inserts aside. I’m starting to wonder if these pains may simply be permanent fixtures in my life.

On that note, I’ve put myself back on the Usually Four but Occasionally Five Days of Running Per Week plan. It’s exactly as fancy as it sounds. The two or three days off are for cross training (mostly rowing), which chops my running mileage down from the 70-80 range to the 48-56 range.

And guess what, fellow Possessors of Common Sense! Already, some of the aches and pains that have been cropping up all winter are magically going away! I only need two ice packs right now instead of four.

These days, I’m acutely aware of the reality that most of my energy and recent PR success is the product of youth and good health. According to millions of older and wiser people across the centuries, it won’t always be this way. If it turns out that I’m not immortal, I’ll start to slow down eventually, get more injuries, and maybe not even want to run as much.

And that’s fine. But in 20, 30, or 40 years, I still want the option of running.

I have many acquaintances, friends and family members who don’t run much anymore due to chronic aches and pains that might have been the result of overdoing it a few decades back. Genetics-wise, I’m starting to suspect I might be headed for that same vortex of frustration.

Do you know of any strategies for avoiding this, or are we all just doomed? Obviously, I’m taking the “reduce my mileage” strategy, because if the higher mileage is throwing consistent injury curveballs my way now, it sure as heck won’t be doing me any favors in ten or twenty years. And yes, despite my cavalier attitude about these things, I’ve been strength training again regularly for a few months now.

Lower mileage, plenty of cross training, and targeted strength training… What else should I include in my “In it for the long haul”/”Multiple Decades of Running Enjoyment” Plan?

Where will you be with your running in ten years? 20? 30? Do you think you’ll still be a runner? I’m realizing that life is too unpredictable to make any vehement claims in one direction or the other, but running has been a constant theme for me in the past decade, so I can only suspect that it will remain so into the next.

Do you know of any great running blogs written by older runners? Most of the running blogs I read are from people in my general age cohort. I would be interested to expand my stalking and read about the insights and experiences of those who have been running for several decades (into their 50’s and 60’s).

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/05/2011 14:02

    hurray for only 2 ice packs!!! i wouldn’t completely give up on your left foot either. i had pain in my hip for a year (literally) and then somehow it magically went away. miracles CAN happen!!

    but are we all doomed? yeah probably. no really, i wish i had something to add but i think you said it. maybe watching our calcium intake to build strong bones, oh, and protein, of course. haha…listen to me talk…i’ve been brutal with my diet lately. i need to figure out a way to get protein into my chocolate chip muffins…

  2. 03/05/2011 14:35

    1. you’re in americorps? how did i not know this?! meeeeeeeeeeeeee tooooooooo.
    2. my mom did my taxes this year.
    3. i read (and used to post quite regularly until life hit me hard recently) on the RWOL marathon dailies section. there’s some older runners who have been doing this for awhile. but most of the older runners i know don’t blog. and on runango.com there are some older runners who’ve been running for a long time too.
    4. i sincerely hope that i’m running for a long time. racing? maybe not so much but definitely running!

  3. 03/05/2011 17:01

    Uh oh, I need to make sure my husband never sees this post. He’s a smart guy, really, but he’s convinced running marathons will make my uterus fall out, need total knee replacements time I’m 35, and suffer other crippling ailments.

    I’m already feeling creakier then I used to be, but I try not to worry about it. Your conundrum is a very common one. Anyone have the answer for us?

    • 03/08/2011 19:42

      I really am worried about the total knee replacements by 35 thing, but maybe that’s just because I’m a certified hypochondriac. I hear one cure is prevention by way of exclusive trail running!

  4. 03/05/2011 19:34

    I’m hoping to be a running lifer (hey, we know I have the stubbornness for it), but if I can’t, I can see myself doing master swimming in the years after my legs give out. There’s quite a few guys in their 50s and 60s. And let me just say, it will be great to get to the age where I can put on a bathing suit and really not give a shit about how I look in it.

  5. 03/06/2011 04:10

    am not 50 (yet). but I am on the wrong side of 30. edging towards 40, lets say. i managed to transition well from being a sprinter in high school and college to a long distance runner (of sorts) during grad school. i run enthusiastically and very regularly now; run about 4 half marathons a year, of course i dont do spectacularly well, but i am able to push myself, improve on time and so on. injuries are many, none of them too bad. mostly they are from playing basketball wearing bad shoes (ligament tears in both ankles) in my youth. i dont think my running (i mean the recent, mommy runner version) has hurt me – but i do lay off and rest (never ice!) when the knee starts ‘talking’ . Cross training, keeping expectations realistic, and, just living life, one day after another are very helpful in not getting into frustrated frames of mind.
    i love reading about you, and hope you continue for many years, running, writing, and doing meaningful things with your life.

    • 03/08/2011 19:55

      Kenny – thank you! Yowch, torn ligaments in both ankles. Is there a reason you never ice the knee? (I don’t ice my knees as much as I “should” … ice makes my patella area feel so stiff for a long time afterward.) Very wise words on the keeping expectations realistic and just living life. Sometimes I get way too wrapped up in running and forget that there are many other valuable aspects to my identity… I don’t HAVE to be a cranky moper just because I’m laid out with an injury for awhile…

  6. 03/06/2011 04:16

    Good luck sorting out your future plans – in life and running! Good for you for picking up lifting again and doing more x- training. Sounds like some of your pains have become chronic, and that’s a scary thought at our you age, so take care of yourself!!

    Over the last few years I’ve come to realize I
    hope To be running when I’m 90 or my whole life. I really hope I can stay healthy and able to do it.

    I also don’t really read any older runners blogs… But I’d like to. The only one that sort of comes to mind is Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers blog at the runner’s world website. Obviously not your average joe blog, but i think she’s around 40 and I like what she writes each week.

  7. 03/06/2011 13:09

    I’ve just had to accept that my body is happier doing 60-something miles/week and cross-training than 70-something. I think part of being a Forever Runner is finding your limits and working within them. Too bad that takes some annoying trial and error.

    I don’t know if you strength train or not, but I’ve noticed the more I run, the more I need to balance out my muscles. Muscle imbalances can cause trouble later.

    • 03/08/2011 19:58

      I have started strength training regularly again. I specifically try to target weak spots and work on them… but my process is very subjective — who knows how much good it actually does. I think the rowing cross training is my most valuable tool of all — it seems to almost guarantee that I won’t have the typical weak runner’s hamstrings.

  8. 03/06/2011 13:31

    So glad you’re feeling better by changing up your routine. Hope that 2 ice packs get to none before too long.

    About the age thing, there’s this article I found interesting that seems to go with your point about not “using up” yourself at an early age. Not sure it’s exactly right, but it does make seemingly sensible points. http://running.competitor.com/2010/02/features/sports-science-update-run-less-to-run-younger_8283

    Love the photo, you are such a cutie!!

    • 03/08/2011 20:01

      I loved the article — thanks! It’s fun to think about this stuff!

  9. 03/06/2011 15:29

    I regularly run with five decades of runners (in age, not necessarily in years running) and it adds an extra dimension to our group runs/after runs. None of them blog but I suppose I get live blogging before and after runs. It definitely adds to the “long run” perspective.

    Most of the blogs I follow seem to be 20 and 30-somethings, but I think there may be a couple of outliers (although I’m not sure how many years they have been running):
    http://twentysixpointtwoormore.blogspot.com/ early 40s?
    http://www.ronhillsalterego.blogspot.com/ 50s?
    http://footloose.runnersworld.com/ ageless.

    • 03/08/2011 20:02

      Thanks for the links; these are great! I run with a multi-decade group as well — I should pick their brains a little more proactively on this subject…

  10. 03/06/2011 19:29

    Another good post! I feel like I’m running in cement shoes (on a muddy CC track) most days 😉 Have been running for 31 years (at a guess, averaging 40 miles a week) and hope to be still running in 20 years’ time.

    Being a product of youth and good health, I think you should give running a serious go over the next however many years. See how good you can become. I believe you can do this and still be running into ‘old’ age. Hate to pull out random examples, but Steve Moneghetti is close to the best for his age (47) in the world and has been running at a high level since his teenage years.

    To avoid injuries? Build up mileage gradually, but modulate it (If you “do well” on high mileage, don’t hold that mileage year-round). Do as much running as you can on undulating dirt trails and soft surfaces. Be adaptable with your training plan (push back a session if you have an injury “niggle”). There are other things – massage, good rest (sleep), nutrition…

    Older runners’ blogs to stalk? Speedygeoff – 62? and running since a little tacker. LLs http://luckylegs.blogspot.com/ 80+ prob the best distance runner for her age in Australia. Bob – 63 http://bobs-training.blogspot.com/ very serious training – 38+ for 10k.

    • 03/08/2011 20:08

      You always leave such great insights in your comments. Thank you for the links and suggestions. And I don’t at all mind random examples; this gives me people to Google and stalk.

      The “being adaptable” one is so key. I consider myself to be fairly adaptable about most things, but I do get pretty rigid about the running… and it gets me into trouble with recurring aches and pains time and time again.

  11. 03/07/2011 02:07

    When I was in the depths of injury, I often wondered if I was totally screwing myself over for running in the future. I still don’t know if I am or not, really. So I can’t help you out. And I would love to be an older runner, but, you know? I expect that I’ll be wealthier when I’m older, in which case I wouldn’t mind being able to travel a lot and be a wealthier hiker, or yoga-doer, or skier.

    • 03/08/2011 20:09

      Word. If I’m rich when I’m older, I’m going to blow all my savings on a membership with a nice expensive rowing club. End of story.

  12. Catherine permalink
    03/07/2011 12:02

    I read http://raceslikeagirl.com/
    My mom has been running for the past 40 years, not at an elite level or anything but she puts away the miles week after week. She slowed down of course but I never cease to be amazed at her dedication.

    • 03/08/2011 20:14

      That’s a great one! I only recently discovered her! Where have I been??

  13. 03/07/2011 13:28

    10 years after college and I still have no. idea. what. to. do with myself. Wanna start our own mafia? I’m so down.

    I’ve been running with some regularity since the ripe old age of 11. As a clueless high schooler, I had some on and off shin issues (which probably could have been cured with a bit more STFU and consistency), but since then I’ve had only one significant injury. And even then I only lasted two weeks. I don’t know if it’s a symbol of potential longevity or that my luck may run out any day now. But for what it’s worth, I’ve had long periods of sitting on my ass and cursing running mixed in there. Which might have helped. ::shrug::

    • 03/08/2011 20:16

      Hey, you may be onto something with the long periods of sitting on your ass and cursing running.

      How are you so injury invincible? (Shooot, you don’t even need a kevlar vest.)

  14. 03/07/2011 16:46

    most people i follow are my age (20’s), in their 30’s and maybe a few in their 40s. i was blog-friends with a guy who was 50-60 but um, he died of a heart attack while running. now that you mention it, there aren’t many older runners out there blogging. actually, “the running fat guy” is somewhere in his 50s, nice guy. and “meg runs” is in her 40’s.

    http://therunningfatguy.blogspot.com/
    http://megrunsalot.blogspot.com/

    i certainly hope i’m still running 20-30-40 yrs from now. maybe i should go ahead and quit chasing pr’s now and just claim that i’m working on my long term running maintenance? 🙂

    as for your real-life future. i have a “real” job, but that doesn’t mean my future is planned out. at least i hope i’m not in this field forever. fake it til you make it?

    • 03/08/2011 20:19

      yeah, that’s the appeal of working on long term running maintenance: it’s okay if you don’t PR… you’re not slacking, just thinking long term! Hahaha, way to call me out. 🙂

  15. 03/08/2011 10:06

    We are all doomed. Cheers.

  16. 03/09/2011 04:49

    Is it pretty safe to say you’ll be leaving Alaska at the end of July? Brit and I were hoping to get you on board for the Klondike Road Relay. We’re 2 short of a team. You’d be our clutch player, lol.

  17. 03/09/2011 07:41

    I think a lot of older runners end up becoming triathletes. Seeing as 1) I can’t swim and 2) cycling seems pretty dangerous (re: Sally Myerhoff) I’m not sure how I feel about that.

    But, more rest and strength training seem to be steps in the right direction re: life long running!

    Also, I think unlimited pizza + mafia membership would be an A-OK gig.

  18. 03/09/2011 09:32

    Over the past few years, I have dealt with more running injuries than usual, but I can pretty confidently attribute them to higher mileage rather than age. Since January, I have been on the run four days per week plan and my body has been thanking me. I hope it works out well for you too. As much as I hate to admit it, I am actually getting in more quality runs by running less often. I have added in biking and weight lifting to compensate for less running. So far, so good.

    I have big plans to keep running essentially forever. We’ll see how that goes. It is encouraging that my 60 year old dad is still running. Maybe I have that genetic gift?

  19. 03/09/2011 14:46

    Such a great topic- I’m hitting my 10th running (well, marathon) anniversary soon & feeling better than I’ve ever felt before. I’d only been running 1 marathon a year & probably only averaging 15 miles. I’m doing a few more this year & trying to average 20 miles a week. It’s not much, but I can only sneak in abut 3.5 most morning at 4:30 AM. Sadly, I do think a large component is just genetic. There are some things we can do- listen to our bodies, do cross-training, have extended rest periods, etc. I’m 30 & run with a group of women who are in their 50’s, but most only took up running seriously after their kids were teens. Good luck with your decisions!

  20. Murdoch permalink
    03/10/2011 06:28

    I see myself basically where I am now in 20 years, still running regularly but also branching out into some other stuff. I’m tentatively doing my first Duathlon in April and might get the courage to do a Tri later in the year.

    One thing thats helped me lately is just looking to do some exercise every day and not necessarily follow a training plan. This usually gets me 4-5 days of running and 1-2 of cycling a week and ive stayed pretty fit.

    Go to runningtimes.com and read Nate Jenkins blog. He’s only 27 or 28 but he’s had a lot of injury problems and is always working on something (usually his hamstring). He’s also very good at answering reader questions.

  21. 03/22/2011 00:54

    Check out Jaymee Marty: runawayfastjaymee.blogspot.com – she’s a little younger than your target age group (I think she’s 42 or 43) but she kicks serious butt 🙂 Also, girlinmotion.com – she’s in her late 40’s and also quite butt-kicking!

    I have been running for 20 years already (I’m 34) and fully intend to do so for another 50 😀 For me, one key is just staying mentally flexible about what constitutes optimal training at any given time. Sometimes the best approach, like in the off season, is just to do a little something every day to maintain fitness as best you can, and give your body a chance to recover from the hard training of a previous season. Easy to say, not so easy to do, right? I think we all get a bit rigid in our thinking about what is ok and what is slacking… Anyway, you are doing the right thing, trying to find out what’s sustainable for your body. You definitely can’t train at a high level year-round so it’s great that you’re figuring out the best way to maintain your fitness in the off season.

    Blah, blah blah. Looking forward to reading more about your training!

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