You’ve probably heard stories of old runners with knee replacements, achy bones, and fatigue, but that’s exactly what those problems are: stories. We all start to feel the aches and pains of growing older, but there’s no reason to hang up your running shoes (or never put them on) because you feel you’re past a certain age. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the winner of the women’s marathon was a 38-year-old Romanian woman named Constantina Tomescu-Dita. If you compare her age to that of other Olympic sports like gymnastics where the mantra is generally “the younger, the better,” there’s no reason to believe that you’re ever too old to run.
And if you’re not convinced that running – and running marathons – is something you can do as you move through your middle years and toward retirement, consider the story of Barbara Hannah Grufferman, who penned a column for The Huffington Post about running in her 50s. She said:
“Now, I run to think, solve problems, feel good, burn calories, and burn off steam. I run to be alone and to be part of a community. I run to look good in my jeans and feel good in my heart. But most importantly, I run . . . because I can.”
And, in fact, researchers have found that running well into your fifties and beyond isn’t going to make you drop dead of a heart attack any more than it might a similarly healthy runner in his or her twenties. According to an article posted on Medical News Today, running marathons over the age of 50 is safe.
Now, if a marathon feels like an awfully long distance, consider that running doesn’t have to mean marathons. Running can mean a brisk jog around the block that amounts to a half mile of running. Maybe you’ll turn that gentle run into a 5K (3.1 miles) some day.
But What About My Knees?
The number one question from people of all ages regarding running is whether the sport will make you a prime candidate for a knee replacement. An article on LiveScience actually calls the idea of bad knees and running an “old wives tale.” In fact, research suggests running helps people remain active as they age because it keeps fluid around the knees and helps them stay flexible.
There are some types of physiology that may make running a more difficult endeavor, such as extreme pronators who walk on the inside of their feet, but the majority of individuals can take up running (or jogging or even swift walking) and experience absolutely zero issues with their knees.
Inspiring Stories of Life-Long Runners
All you have to do to believe that running is something you can do forever is look at Olympic marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won a gold medal for the marathon at the 1984 Olympics and still runs today, over 30 years later. Incredibly, she ran the 2014 Boston Marathon and finished with a time of 2:50:37. That’s less than 30 minutes more than her time at the 1984 Olympics.
Whether your goal is to run to the end of the street or to the end of a marathon, don’t assume you’re ever too old to lace up a pair of running shoes and take to the streets, sand, or trails for a run.