“I’ve been running for nearly 20 years and had lots of PRs when I was younger. Now that I’m in my thirties, I don’t have as much time to train and my body just doesn’t bounce back like it used to. I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that my fastest days are behind me. How do I deal with this?” – Sam M.
Slowing down is inevitable as runners age. As we get older, we lose muscle strength and aerobic capacity and we need more recovery time, so we just can’t train and race at the same level.
Life gets busier so we just don’t have the same amount of time and energy to dedicate to training. It can be extremely frustrating and disappointing to see your pace and finishing times creep up and up. It helps to try to take the focus away from the times and think about all the reasons why you fell in love with running in the first place. Maybe you really like the camaraderie and social aspects of running. Or, perhaps you love the health benefits and how you feel during and after a run.
If you feel like you need new motivation to keep running, try to mix things up to get more enjoyment out of running. Run with a group, do a relay race, sign up for a mud run or other theme race, try a new race distance, or run a race with a friend who’s never done one before. You may be surprised at how much fun running can be when you’re not so focused on your training and racing times.
Focus on New Goals, Not Performance-Related
Taking the focus away from race times will help you enjoy running more and not be so bummed out about slowing down. You may find that you can still experience a lot of joy and sense of accomplishment from running beyond your race times. Be proud of the fact that you’ve stuck with running after all these years and are still enjoying yourself. Personally, I hope to one day be that 80-year-old woman still running in races and having a blast.
Of course, if you’re the type of runner that’s very motivated by time goals, you can still set goals, but you need to make sure they’re realistic. You need to redefine your definition of success and stop comparing yourself to the runner that you were 10 years ago. In most cases, that’s an unrealistic goal and you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead of trying to beat your race PR from 15 years ago, try to improve your time from last year. Or, aim to finish in the top 10% (or other percentage) of your age group. As you get older, you can still push yourself to achieve realistic time goals and feel satisfaction in achieving them.