Friday, October 23, 2009


Nearly all of my MDRA articles come from my ramblings on this blog. The latest ramblings have led to this article;

Confessions of an Aging Runner
By Chad Austin 10/2/09

Time flies. It seems like just yesterday I was a snot-nose kid idolizing professional athletes that were much older than me. Today they’re all younger than me, even Brett Favre. I recently read an article in the paper that questioned whether or not a particular player was past his prime. He’s 33 years old. Poor guy.

Each of the last 15 years I’ve entered the season convinced that I could still break PRs that I set in college. It didn’t seem to matter that I had not come within 20 seconds per mile of my best times. I kept holding out hope that “everything would come together” – whatever that means – and I’d run like never before. As I entered the Master ranks this summer, it finally occurred to me that I will never run those kinds of times ever again.

Still, I secretly hoped that the sheer act of turning 40 would be magical enough, in and of itself, that it’d lead to a summer of fast times. While some people can find motivation in joining a new age group, I could not. The realization that my physical skills were deteriorating lead to a lack of motivation. While I was still able to get out and run, I wasn’t motivated enough to actually train. Training plans that looked great on paper went out the window as I avoided hard workout after hard workout. Of course, this led to even worse race results. I figured I’d better look for ways out of this vicious cycle before thoughts of turning into a couch potato became any more attractive.

Ever notice when you’re at a crossroads in life that it seems like everyone else is in the same boat too? Getting married? Good luck finding a reception hall. Having a baby? All the sudden baby strollers are everywhere. You get the picture. Well, apparently it’s the same for getting old and slow. Suddenly, I came across magazine articles, websites, and message board threads with information and advice on this topic. If you’re getting old(er) and slow(er) like me, or if you just find yourself lacking motivation at times, here are some ideas to help you break the cycle and increase your motivation.

You may be able to break out of your slump by simply mixing up one aspect of your day-to-day training. Do you find yourself running the same two or three routes all the time? Then it’s time to find a new course. If you live in the suburbs, venture into the Twin Cities and see why they are constantly ranked at the top of the best cities for running. If you constantly find yourself running the lakes, check out the Greenway, the Parkway, Pike Island, the River Roads, or any number of trails in the area. If you don’t live in the metro area, you might not have as many options, but I’m sure you can find a new route if you look hard enough.

Do you run by yourself all the time? Try finding a group to run with or a new training partner. With the popularity of running and the help of the Internet, I’m betting that you won’t have any problems finding someone to join you. Of course, if you always run with a group, it wouldn’t hurt to get out and run by yourself.

Are you a gear junkie? Do you find that you can’t run without your iPod, GPS, heart-rate monitor, etc.? Try leaving those things at home for a change. Even something as simply as leaving your watch at home is enough to break up the monotony. The same can be true if you fashion yourself “Old School”. Strapping on a GPS and getting instant feedback on something like your pace could help spur you on.

The fact that the stopwatch does not lie can be a double-edged sword in our sport. It’s great that it spells out our performance in black and white, rather than leaving it up to some judge’s interpretation. On the other hand, it’s very easy to get so caught up in our race times that our sheer enjoyment of the sport depends on those numbers. As those times start to deteriorate, it may be helpful to look at new ways to compare your results.

One way is to look at how you’re doing compared to other runners in your age-group. Granted, we can’t control our competition, but we’re still able to use them as motivation. Scanning the results after a handful of races should give you a pretty good idea of some of the runners near you in your age group. While you may not know what you’ll look like, seeing their name just ahead of yours in the results may be enough get you to train harder.

Another way to compare your results is using an age-grading calculator, like the one created by the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA). To find a calculator online, simply Google age-grading calculator. Once you find a site, key in your age, sex, race time and distance, and hit calculate. The calculator attempts to account for slowing with age by giving a correction factor for our race times, dependent upon age, sex, and distance. You’ll also see a percentage that you can use to calculate how a particular performance would correspond across ages and distances.

There are so many different challenges within the running world and there’s a good chance you haven’t tried them all. If you find yourself running on the roads all the time, it may be time to hit the trails.

Constantly running a couple of marathons every year? Maybe rekindling your speed with a bunch of short races is just what you need. If you’re looking for a new PR, try finding a new distance to race. You may have to look hard, but you can find less common distances like 12K, 20K, 30K on our race calendars. If you don’t want to race that far, seek out a 2, 3 or 4-mile race. Perhaps jumping up to an ultra marathon is something that’s crossed your mind. Even something as simple as doing a 5K or 10K that you’ve never done before is enough to get your running juices flowing again.

Another option would be to take a break from racing. Not having to worry about an upcoming race can relieve the pressures that can lead to staleness. Get out and run for the pure enjoyment of the sport and how it makes you feel.

One of the great things about running is that it’s terrific at building an aerobic base that can be carried over to other aerobic-based sports like; biking, swimming, triathlons, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, rollerblading, kayaking, etc. Sure there can be a lot of technique involved with some of these, but your aerobic conditioning from running will give you a head start. Besides, learning a new sport, especially after running for many years, can be very exciting. The chances are that after cross-training, you’ll be more eager when you do lace up your running shoes.

Maybe you’re not slowing down at all, but you simply find your running lacking motivation from time to time. Try incorporating some of these tips to help keep your running enjoyable - and hopefully fast.

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