Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Think You Are Too Old to Run? Think Again.

I started running seven years ago when I was 41. To my children, I am classified as very old. I remember when my parents turned 40 and to me they seemed ancient. Now, I view my current age of 48 as kind of spring-chickish. Yes, I’m almost half a century, but my heart and soul still feels about 13 (yes, you know that by my love of farts and all things potty humor).

So, even if we start running when we’re old-ish, will it be possible for us to keep running? I have this dream of running well into my eighties. I might be wearing depends and eating gels made out of strained peas, but I hope I’m doing it.  


This 90 year old  grandma from Japan does a 100m sprint in 23 seconds.

Most research will tell you that you are never too old to run. Hallelujah! However, we can anticipate changes to our bodies that might decrease performance. The need for recovery and rest days will certainly become a priority. Below are some adjustments (a nice way of saying “deteriorations”) your body endures as you move beyond 30 years of age:

  • Aerobic capacity decreases (an inevitable decline in maximum heart rate)
  • Muscle mass reduces
  • Muscle elasticity decreases
  • Bone density reduces
  • Metabolism slows
  • Body fat increases
  • Immune system becomes weaker
  • After age 35, endurance performance declines by about five to 15 percent per decade.

While this all sounds sucky, there is an upside. Running has been shown to have many benefits for us as we age, ranging from the physical to the mental. Such advantages include decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, reduced depression/anxiety, weight management/control, improved mobility and improved bones, muscles and joints.

Reading the above, you would be crazy not to start or to continue to run as you get older. But, for the love of Pheidippides, but smart about it.

  • Warm up before each running session for at least a mile. Add in some dynamic exercises to prepare your body to run.
  • Take at least two rest days from running per week, if not more.
  • Incorporate non-impact cross training, such as swimming, water running or cycling.
  • Increase weight/strength training to maintain muscle mass.

While for some, race times will continue to plummet as they age, this does not have to be the case. Smart training choices (see above) can lead to amazing results even as you get older. So run on, old fogeys.


At what age did you start running?

What new issues have you noticed with age? I’m not getting much faster, but my endurance is better.


Older Runners (Running for Fitness, 2011)
Age Matters (Runner’s World, 2009)
Why It’s Never Too Late to Start Running (Runner’s World, 2013)


  1. I started running at about your current age, and 10 years later I'm still (mostly) at it. What I notice is that recovery takes much longer now.

    Google Sister Madonna Buder, if you want inspiration about running as an older person. Just do it, and thank me later.

  2. I started running when I was 32. 19 years later I'm still at it. I had my first bone density scan last year and my bones are A+, which I attribute to running and good genes. I definitely enjoy my rest days and mountain biking!

  3. No excuses! I'm only 57 and I don't ever want to run a100 miler ;)

  4. Exactly what I needed to read today.Thanks, Beth. Likee you, I started running at 40 and, at 53, I'm still at it. There are days when I wonder if I'm getting "too old" but I'm determined to keep at it as long as I can. Every time, I see a man or woman "of a certain age" on the road, I mentally toast them and hope to inspire others the same way one day. Thanks again.

  5. Jo-Anne SheffieldJuly 8, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    I started running at 43 so that's 11 years ago now! I really didn't think I'd be a long distance runner. Kind of hated for awhile but then the magic happened and I am now training for my fourth marathon and BQ'd on my second.

    I've not slowed down at all, in fact, I've just taken 3 mins off my 15K time and am planning to run a sub-4:00 marathon in Berlin! (We'll see if that happens)! My advice - keep cross-training, increase your protein intake and keep running!

  6. I ran my first marathon 3 weeks after turning 43 and 13 years later, I'm still at it.

  7. What did you do before running?

    I started in college stopped for awhile had kids then started back up again 8 years ago

  8. I started weight training with my crossfit coach 2 years ago and I continue to have PRs. This is fun! Who's old?

  9. 17 years old and been at it ever since with a few months break during three pregnancies. I am slower but not by too much. If It worked as hard as I did in my 20s, I probably would get fast again! I train smarter now.

  10. started at 55. Am now 62. I have PRed at every distance in the last year but I expect that to end. I feel younger than before I started running.

  11. I was 21 in 1977. Now I am 60. Still doing it

  12. I started at 47 and now a I am 53. I have learned to listen to my own body and skip junk kilometers and crazy programmes. It is not the race that counts but the journey to the finish

    1. I also started at 47 and am now 53. After a trail series where I injured myself in the quest to be a top finisher in my age division, I learned the exact same lesson as you Dorothe, it is the journey to the finish, not the race.

  13. It is the darnedest thing to be getting so old (63). It is just odd to be "that old person". I started running around age 30, and ran a marathon at 32, and then I had children and have run off and mostly on ever since. Lining up for races, now, usually I feel very lonely when I think about it, because most people seem to be in their 20's or 30's. When I don't think about it, I still love it! I am, definitely, much slower now. Running a 9 minute now is comparable to what used to be a 7 minute mile, but it FEELS the same. I hope all you spring 40 & 50 something chickens keep running & keep each other company!

  14. 58 years old female; started running 3 years ago. It's exhilarating to me to see my endurance and fitness improve even as the age keeps creeping up. First year started with a 9:00 minute/mile 5k, couple of weeks ago did an 8:00 minute/mile 10k. Never thought I could do a half marathon but did my first one this spring at an 8:30/mile. A full marathon is now on the radar!
    In better shape now, mentally and physically, than I was in my mid 30s through early 50s. Definitely never too old for running or exercise!

  15. I started 5 years ago and now I'm 50!!! I think running is keeping me young. But as I age I find that rather than look at the number of miles, I look at how my body feels. And I find I really love running more and more. Into our 80's we go!!!!

  16. Started walking at 50, 6 months later down 50 pounds. Then started running the trails where no one could see the fat lady run. Then started hitting the streets. Running telephone poles and stop signs. Dropped another 50lbs in 4 months. Did my first half marathon after 11 months - 2 hrs, 23 min. Did my second half marathon two months later in 1 hour 58 minutes. Well its a year later and I have kept 120 pounds off and I feel great. Run almost every day. Mileage a little off this year due to a little case of anemia (dam that overtraining)! But no hope of me going back to the old way of life. I am a RUNNER. I am not stopping because of the age on my drivers licence. Love your blog - thanks for the motivation and the laughs.


    Childhood obesity has, from being an aberration, become a cause of concern. Nowadays, there is increasing focus on the health of children and teenagers, and the lack of fitness in that particular age group is constantly under a spotlight.

  18. I'm 40 and I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I've put a new emphasis on strength training due to my "advanced age" and I think it's all the difference. Never to old to do a good thing, right?

    Also, I farted doing some ab work with a trainer yesterday and I 1.) quickly was embarrassed and 2.) KNEW you needed to know about that. I could have died. She said it wasn't stinky but it was.

  19. 49 year old here.

    I've also read somewhere, that the decline in endurance for ages 30 - 60 can be relatively mild, though it accelerates after that point.

    Again, from somewhere, I had this notion that by staying active, you bend the curve of decline, so that it is much less steep compared to someone who is sedentary.

  20. I am 54 years old. I started running three years ago. I have run 6 half marathons and 2 marathons. I am not a speedy runner, just under 2 hours for the half and about 4:13 for the fulls. I have to start each run slow and allow myself to warm up to a steady pace. I also only run 3 days a week. I need my recovery time.

  21. I love this post. I am only 35 but I plan to run until I can't any more. My dad is 60 and will be running Boston for the 6th time next spring. My mom always says that the body will age but the heart never will <3

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  23. I turned 59 2 weeks ago and I started running at age 58 & 10/12ths. Enjoying the heck out of it so far, especially now that I have hit the more running than walking portion. I got a fitbit in March and had forgotten until then how competitive with myself I am. I've lost 32 pounds and my stamina hasn't been this strong in years. Hot a mud run coming up in a month and a real 5K in September (unless I wuss out).

  24. I started running when I was in High School (16-17) and will be 62 this year. I am still running three days a week and mix it up with cycling and swimming and LOTS of yoga for strength and flexibility-I swear by hip openers! Don't know about the really long stuff anymore (marathon and beyond) but I would still love to qualify for Boston some year…and do another Ironman when I am 65.

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