Too bad in the running world that moniker doesn’t carry the same glory as, say, “Master Chef” or “Master of the Universe.” Nope, in running terms, “Master” = Old (over 40). Like probably a good bet that a master runner isn’t on Tinder.
When I started running again at the age of 41, I had difficulty letting go of the image I had of myself as a younger runner — those rooted ideas about what I “should” be able to do or what I “used to” be able to get away with. However, there’s nothing like injuries to convince even the most stubborn person, and so now, after six years as a seasoned runner, I have, for the most part, acquiesced to my status of Master. And that means that I’ve surrendered to certain truisms.
- Rest is My Best Friend. I take two whole days off of running. On one of those non-running days I maybe do some stretching or ab work, and the other non-running day is only slightly more arduous. I try to get 7 hours sleep every night; I nap; and if I wake up feeling like a bus ran me over, I stay in bed. At this point, rest does my body way more good than whatever workout I was planning on doing that day when I’m clearly beat to hell.
- Pre-and Post-Running Routines are Not Optional. Long gone are the days when I used to get up, throw my shoes on, and head out the door. Buh-bye jumping in the shower as soon as I come back from a run. Now I have a regular foam rolling, stretching, and leg strengthening routine. I don’t do all them before/after every run, but I do some version of them almost every day. They are an integral part of my training program, rather than an afterthought, and I see the effects in my ability to stay pretty healthy.
- Cold is Cool. Ice ice ice. It’s the miracle drug. Right now I’m only doing ice packs on specific trouble areas (right calf and knees), but in a couple weeks I’ll start in with the ice baths. All this cold stuff just aids the recovery process, which is the main thing I’ve noticed with aging – you just don’t bounce back like you used to. The faster and better I can recover, the more I can train.
- No More Post-Long Runs Gorging. This is so sad to me. I still definitely eat more on the days I have long runs, but “more” now means going out to a restaurant and eating a good-sized entrée and/or a small dessert. It doesn’t mean grazing all day long and thinking “I just ran 16 miles. I can eat what I want!” I once gained two plus pounds the day after a long run. I mean, who does that?! Enough of this subject; it’s bumming me out.
Acclimating to the idea of being an older runner was a slow and humbling process, but now it’s just the way it is. Being (mostly) diligent about these points has allowed me to keep training and given me the stupid belief that I can still improve and reach my goals. Luckily, there are plenty of inspiring stories out there, like this one I read today about Carol Sexton, who started running at 52 and got a marathon PR of 3:31:07 after she turned 55!
Another truism that I’ve come to know as a master runner is gratitude. As I strolled up to the start line of Surf City this past weekend, with the Pacific Ocean on my left, I had a Moment. I just kind of paused, looked up and thanked the universe that I was healthy, strong, and able to run this race. Even a grumpy old bitch like me can at times recognize her good fortune.
And oh by the way, I got myself a course PR for that race. I mean, it’s highly improbable that at this age, I’m running faster than I was four years ago, but yeah, that happened. So bite me, old age.