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The fine line.

The finisher's diploma on display here is not intended to impress anyone. It is just to show show that for my age group, 24 men were faster & 64 were slower so an average result one might say. I'm pleased with the result but feel fortunate, even privilleged to compete and to be able to make the time available for running something over 750 miles a year.

Having given up all sporting activity when I reached 30, apart from some cycling and a couple of laps at a running track that left me exhausted, the idea of taking up running in my 60's might have seemed a wee bit optimistic although other words might seem more apposite. At that time, high blood pressure & dodgy knees had the doctor talking about operations & pills for the rest of my life. That was 10 years ago & he may well have been right but I decided to change doctor & took up running instead.

In these days of on-line running magazines and the increasing popularity of long distance running, it is easy to access all sorts of advice from running coaches all over the world but a lot is contradictory & most is aimed at budding 20-30 year old athletes. Trying to apply some of that advice at my age would almost certainly result in a stay in hospital.

So when I came out of hospital, I opted for a more sedate, progressive approach and, somewhat surprisingly, I still seem to be improving with age. It's no secret that if you want to improve, you need the right sort of training for your age, condition & goals. Intensive training increases significantly the chance of picking up minor or major injuries. 
That is the fine line that has to be found.
Tempus is against you of course as age related factors usually reduce your Vo2 max (or your capacity to sustain long runs) each year.

I'm often asked, well, someone once asked me, what I think about when running.
My running takes several forms. Maintenance runs, endurance runs, speed runs & of course races.

Races:
Waiting for the gun to go off is usually spent trying to keep warm & wondering whether the training went as well as it should have.
When the race gun goes off, with wave starts these days my lot still has to shuffle towards the start line trying to keep out of the way of some last minute nervous gymnastics from those around me. Finally my timing chip crosses the start line & we are under way which is when I have get into the rhythm I want to run at & not necessarily that of the runners all around me. Easier said than done with congested starts but finding the right speed at the start is critical. Too slow & you can never make up the lost time at the end. Too fast & you run out of steam early & go into survival rather than racing mode. Part of the training plan works on getting going at the desired pace and many runners use digital music players during races. I don't use these contraptions but a guitar intro from a Fleetwood Mac song is played over & over in my head which gives me a tempo to follow. The elites & top class runners usually try for negative splits but doing splits at my age sounds a bit dodgy. Another complication in settling down to my race pace comes from not always seeing the first Km or mile markers so this part of training can be vital. Much of this early part of the race is spent wondering if I'm going too fast (?) or too slow before eventually giving up & starting enjoying the race. Not that races ever go completely to plan & eventually I switch to survival mode at some stage, start ignoring the watch as well as whatever is hurting & concentrate on getting to the finishing line & enjoying the elation of crossing the line.

Maintenance runs:
These are generally recovering from a race or maintaining a base fitness level before being a little more serious in the build up to the next race. With two half marathons and two 10Km races per year the schedule is not strenuous and has plenty of recovery time. Thoughts tend to wander towards the next competition & wonder if the joints can survive another session. Knees and ankles are often cause for concern, will those niggling aches & pains clear up or will a call to the osteopath or accupuncturer be needed.

Endurance & speed runs:
No real secret to long distance running - you need to run a long time. Gardening or working on the house all seem to bring their share of problems so these often get relegated when training for a race.
Hill work is useful in distance running. Climbing hills develops strength while learning how to run downhill (sounds too obvious to learn doesn't it?) can make up precious minutes during a race. I find it  helps to put less effort into climbing & accelerate when descending as opposed to climbing at full effort & recovering when going downhill. This may be an age related thing. I find my ankles don't like hills & my knees don't like speed work so training for a race can be summed up by trying to get as strong as possible while at the same time ensuring that muscles & joints survive to race day.
That's a lot to think about during all those training runs.