LIFE IS LIKE A BAR OF TOBLERONE: Lainey
It came as a bit of surprise, the first time my 10km time was at least a minute slower. Instead of beating my best time of 49 minutes I found that my times were getting slower and slower, down to 57 minutes. What was going on?
Then I realised that I wasn't catching up to other runners any more because age was catching up to me.
Now I'm 63 and still running 5km, 10km and, occasionally, half marathons but my pace is declining in direct proportion to my years going up. I can still do 10km in under an hour but for how much longer?
It's only been in the last five years that I've noticed age being a fitness issue as well as a number. But when does it happen? At what exact stage in life does training and fitness no longer result in better performance? Is there an actual day and hour that the balance shifs from exercising to get increasingly fitter to exercising just to slow down loss of muscle and bone density??
Obviously when the Zimmer frame beckons varies from person to person - and to be still running at all at 63 years is something to be thankful for. But before talk of Zimmer frames adds depression into the process of ageing I have some positive news. For the past two years I've discovered a new power that I never had before, the power to run up hills without stopping.
And I can't quite explain it except to say it comes from the Forrest Gump school of endurance running as in putting on trainers and just heading for the hills. Yep around two years ago I put on trail shoes and ran up mountains going up steep inclines without stopping. And, ok, I'm not setting any records for speed but according to Strava, I am one of the minority of runners who attempt col bagging - as in ticking off well-known high mountain cols.
Is it an age thing? As speed slows does endurance take over? Certainly there's evidence that slow twitch muscles take over from fast twitch and that 'older' athletes are running marathons when their sprint days are over. The second fastest British woman over marathon distance, Mara Yamauchi was 31 when she ran her first marathon running her personal best at 35 in the 2008 Osaka Ladies Marathon in a time of 2:25:03. And at the ripe old age of 34, Spanish triathlon runner, Javier Gomez has just made history in Montreal as the oldest winner in the World Triathlon Series.
So is 35, half of three score years and ten, roughly the tipping point? In which case there's not much time to enjoy reaching our peak between the optimum athletic years of 18 and 35 if performance declines from then onwards.
Long distance, though, also takes mental maturity. Running up hills like the Col du Granon in the Hautes Alpes which fazes many a cyclist as it is so long and steep - 100m vertical for every 1km with a total of 1000m for 12km - I find is as much a Forrest Gump mindset to keep going without stopping as it is a physical challenge. I did it this year (my 64th) on a mid- summer morning in August when the temperatures were set to rise to over 30C. Carrying a hydration pack I set off at 8.30am and reached the top in 1 hours 44 minutes.
Was it steep? Yes. Was it hot? Scorching. Was it the hardest hill run I'd ever done? Undoubtedly. Was it the hardest run ever? No, not at all. Running the Paris Marathon with a knee swollen with loose cartilege takes that accolade.
Oh yes. Knees. The older we get the more likely we are to have physical issues, knees often being the first to kick off, so as to speak. And, yep, I've had my problems needing an operation to take out a tiny piece of cartilege after the Paris Marathon around six years ago.
It's tweaked since then. But last year Siggy, who is a Sports and Body Massage Therapist, treated my knee with specific massaging. Since then it's like new. Yes even running downhill. Is it the massage or hill running building up quad muscle strength? Probably both.
So from being demotivated by slower race times, I've become totally inspired by even slower hill running feeling like Forrest Gump, putting on trainers and just heading up the mountain.
Yep life is like a bar of Tobleone - after one peaked triangle you can't stop till you've had another.
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