65 to 74
Despite what Lieberman says about our distant ancestors’ staying power, this is an age where simply lining up at the start of a race is something most of your peers would never attempt. But if you’re careful and dedicated, it’s still possible to be good. One person who’s discovered this is running coach Mike Reif. ‘I’ve been running for over 55 years and [at 65] got motivated because of the new age group,’ he says. He lost weight and began running with the athletes he coaches. He also remembered his youth, when he was on a national championship team. ‘My mindset went back to that,’ he says. ‘If you can make that transition, you can get motivated at any age.’
It’s also useful to find a club. Reif’s club competes in competitions where masters events can have sizeable fields, even in the higher age groups.
Work on your stride length. Studying 78 men at the seven-mile mark of a marathon, researchers found the stride length of runners over 60 was 17 per cent shorter, on average, than those of 40-49-yearolds. To lengthen your stride, stretch after every run, concentrating on your hamstrings, calves and lower back. In addition, try throwing some 10-15second pickups ( bursts of faster running) into your regular runs to stretch out your muscles.
It’s also increasingly important to pay attention to strength training. The average person steadily loses muscle mass after the age of 30 – this can mean a decline of 30-40 per cent by the age of 70. Just because you’re a runner, don’t think you’re immune to this fall-off.
It’s worth building some balance and coordination moves into your routine. Try the ‘flamingo’: stand on one leg for one minute, with a finger on the back of a chair to stabilise yourself. Then try it without finger support, and finally try it with your eyes closed.
Recovery and listening to your body is ever more important. Joe Kregal, a 70-year-old from Portland, Oregon, who can still run a 22:48 5K, monitors his body’s twinges and reacts accordingly. And he also believes in active recovery, like swimming and biking.
And most important of all, pay no heed to the naysayers. ‘Unless there’s something anatomically wrong with you, you can get some pretty good speed going,’ says Kregal. ‘The problem is that society wants to close you down. Don’t quit when people tell you to.’
Recovery and listening to your body becomes ever more important