Runners over 40...

lporter229
lporter229 Posts: 4,907 Member
I know age inevitably becomes a limiting factor in how much one can improve upon their racing times. I am curious to know, for those of you over 40, have you reached a point where you are no longer seeing improvements in your running abilities (i.e. race times)? When did you plateau? And how long have you been running? I think for me, it is becoming harder to gain speed on shorter distance runs, but I am still noticing some improvement in overall endurance for longer runs, but it feels like the rate of improvement is slowing down a bit. I guess this is natural for runners of all ages as you get faster, but I am wondering when I can realistically expect to peak?
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Replies

  • fleetzz
    fleetzz Posts: 962 Member
    Make friends with Dave and Carson. Read and heed what they post.
  • rabblerabble
    rabblerabble Posts: 471 Member
    I started running at the first of this year and turned 53 in May. Hopefully will continue to improve for awhile before starting to decline.
  • ZenInTexas
    ZenInTexas Posts: 781 Member
    Make friends with Dave and Carson. Read and heed what they post.

    This! Dave, Carson, Mark, they're all over 40 have been running for years and are making PR's.
  • Stoshew71
    Stoshew71 Posts: 6,553 Member
    I am 42 and will be 43 in a couple of months. Former HS and college athlete that became a slacker until as of recent.

    I just started taking up running almost exactly a year ago by first starting to run on the treadmill for 3 miles like 4-5x a week to "loose weight and get into shape". It progressed and started doing some races. As my running friends here on mfp can attest, my times have improved greatly and continue to improve. Good luck!
  • SKME2013
    SKME2013 Posts: 704 Member
    I am female and hitting 50 next year...Until a year and half ago I smoked a pack of cigarettes daily and I could not run more than 100 meters without collapsing...

    Tomorrow I will run my second 10K race hopefully again without stopping or walking. I signed up for my first half marathon this November and am currently running around 17km without pausing.

    I might not be the fastest runner (yet ;) ) but yes, I am still making progress in distance and endurance. Speed will hopefully come later.

    I would have bet my arm last year if somebody told me I would be on the fitness wagon this year and would be running such distances, but hey, here I am and as you can probably tell, I am superbly proud!

    Last weekend I jogged up the Grouse Grind here in Vancouver, a mountain that is in the guide books as very challenging and steep, one of the longer step masters in the world, and while doing so, I left my 15 year old niece who is very fit and her friend behind. They made it in an hour and 15 minutes, while I was up there just under one hour.

    Best of luck
    Stef.
  • HornedFrogPride
    HornedFrogPride Posts: 283 Member
    Don't assume that you've already peaked, plenty of runners are peaking in their 40s or beyond. (Phil McCarthy, my ultra friend who won his first 6-day ultra race at age 45 for one.) For me, yes, I'm slowing down but I'm running longer races to compensate for that. Sometimes workouts need to be adjusted by age/physical condition, though. Plenty of experts here more knowledgeable than me. For me, losing weight & getting my core strengthened and restored helped a lot. But I can't run like I did when I was 20! Wish I could though! :glasses:
  • DavidMartinez2
    DavidMartinez2 Posts: 840 Member
    I have been running for almost 5 years and am still making improvements from 5K to marathon. As you get faster it is harder to take time off; I don't see me taking a minute off my 17:25 5K PR but I feel I can get it under 17 if I dedicated myself to it.
  • lporter229
    lporter229 Posts: 4,907 Member
    Thanks for the replies everyone. It's nice to know my best years might not be behind me.
  • ItsMeGee3
    ItsMeGee3 Posts: 13,255 Member
    I was a 20+ yr smoker that didn't start running until I was 43. Since quitting, I've run several half marathons (one scheduled for the 19th of this month and one Nov 8). My pace continues to improve. I've also ran my first full this past April. Planning on beating that time this spring.
  • DonPendergraft
    DonPendergraft Posts: 520 Member
    I don't remember where I read it, but supposedly when you start running (regardless of age) you have about 7 years to reach your best. If you don't start to age 45 then should improve until 52 using this logic. If you start at 23, you will improve until 30. I don't really know though. It's all relative. I will be 50 next month and I'm improving, but I'm not nearly as fast as I would have been if I would have been seriously training in my 20's. :)
  • CarsonRuns
    CarsonRuns Posts: 3,039 Member
    I'm 46 and have been running for about 11 years. I haven't set a PR this year, but I'm not sure if that's because I've reached my fullest potential or because I've gained some weight (10+ pounds, which is like 7% for me).

    My progression moved really quickly for about the first 8 years and then the margins of the PR's got smaller.

    Here's the progression of a couple popular race distances.

    Marathon: 3:38 in 2010 to 3:10 in 2013
    Half Marathon: 1:57 in 2006 to 1:28 in 2012
    5K: 27:56 in 2005 to 19:18 in 2013
    Mile: 6:18 in 2009 to 5:25 in 2013

    Conventional wisdom states that it takes about 10 years for a runner to reach their peak of fitness. So, runners in their 40s are still able to improve if they are Adult Onset Runners like me.

    Personally, I think I still have some room to improve. Most of my PRs were set when I was in the low 120s. I'm not there now. I'm focusing on getting back there to take a run at some more PRs in the spring.
  • GiddyupTim
    GiddyupTim Posts: 2,819 Member
    I feel the need to weigh in here with some pessimism because I suspect you people are being a bit too rosy.
    Keep in mind I am speaking from my own experience, which is that I started running in my early twenties and that, until recently, I played soccer at least once a week since the age of about 30 years.
    I think I became appreciably slower at age 40 years. It wasn't really that I lost the capability of speed or of improvement. It was injuries. You start getting injured a bit more. It takes you longer to recover. All that interferes with training.
    Until recently (last seven-eight years or so), I always felt like I could be as fast as I ever was on a good day. But, those good days just don't come very much. And, when they do, you have to make up for the loss of conditioning you have from not being at 100 percent before.
    My brother and I facetiously refer to it as the "migrating injury syndrome." You just always have something wrong, maybe something niggling, maybe something serious, but always something. It moves around to different body parts. But, an injury is always there.
    I am not going to say it is impossible to improve after age 40 years. But it becomes increasingly difficult.
    My wife has had a hard time improving post-40 years too, and she has not had half the injuries I have. She is now 51 years. For at least the past 10, she has been working hard to improve her marathon time. Her last marathon? She finished with almost exactly the same time as the first marathon she ever ran, at about age 34-35 years. Despite serious work. Despite greater experience.
  • jturnerx
    jturnerx Posts: 325 Member
    I'm 51 now and I started running consistently five years ago. I'm still seeing improvements but realistically I suspect that will only last for maybe a few more years. I'm sure I would have been a lot faster when I was in my 20s but I wasn't running in my 20s or my 30s so I can't miss what I never had.
  • sarahc001
    sarahc001 Posts: 477 Member
    I'm 51 now and I started running consistently five years ago. I'm still seeing improvements but realistically I suspect that will only last for maybe a few more years. I'm sure I would have been a lot faster when I was in my 20s but I wasn't running in my 20s or my 30s so I can't miss what I never had.

    What she said. I started running (first time since elementary school) at 39. 42 now and I'm still improving, but that's clearly due to the fact that I was starting from nothing...it's still pretty gratifying, though; I have to admit.
  • LoneWolfRunner
    LoneWolfRunner Posts: 1,160 Member
    I'm 56 and have had both hips replaced. I started running when I was 53. My improvement keeps coming in the form of weekly miles and distances... not speed. I run 45-50 miles per week and started running ultras this year. The toughest part of running at this age is recovery time. I feel that I can find ways to improve that as well, but it is very difficult for me to get enough sleep and I try to run smart because recovering from falls (I run a lot of trails) and other injuries is more time consuming when your are older. But I feel like I keep getting better.... last year I ran 1400 miles.... I already have 1500 this year and I am hoping to hit 2000 at year's end.
  • fleetzz
    fleetzz Posts: 962 Member
    I'm 46 and have been running for about 11 years. I haven't set a PR this year, but I'm not sure if that's because I've reached my fullest potential or because I've gained some weight (10+ pounds, which is like 7% for me).

    My progression moved really quickly for about the first 8 years and then the margins of the PR's got smaller.

    Here's the progression of a couple popular race distances.

    Marathon: 3:38 in 2010 to 3:10 in 2013
    Half Marathon: 1:57 in 2006 to 1:28 in 2012
    5K: 27:56 in 2005 to 19:18 in 2013
    Mile: 6:18 in 2009 to 5:25 in 2013

    Conventional wisdom states that it takes about 10 years for a runner to reach their peak of fitness. So, runners in their 40s are still able to improve if they are Adult Onset Runners like me.

    Personally, I think I still have some room to improve. Most of my PRs were set when I was in the low 120s. I'm not there now. I'm focusing on getting back there to take a run at some more PRs in the spring.

    This is Carson--make friends with him :drinker:
  • fleetzz
    fleetzz Posts: 962 Member
    I feel the need to weigh in here with some pessimism because I suspect you people are being a bit too rosy.
    Keep in mind I am speaking from my own experience, which is that I started running in my early twenties and that, until recently, I played soccer at least once a week since the age of about 30 years.
    I think I became appreciably slower at age 40 years. It wasn't really that I lost the capability of speed or of improvement. It was injuries. You start getting injured a bit more. It takes you longer to recover. All that interferes with training.
    Until recently (last seven-eight years or so), I always felt like I could be as fast as I ever was on a good day. But, those good days just don't come very much. And, when they do, you have to make up for the loss of conditioning you have from not being at 100 percent before.
    My brother and I facetiously refer to it as the "migrating injury syndrome." You just always have something wrong, maybe something niggling, maybe something serious, but always something. It moves around to different body parts. But, an injury is always there.
    I am not going to say it is impossible to improve after age 40 years. But it becomes increasingly difficult.
    My wife has had a hard time improving post-40 years too, and she has not had half the injuries I have. She is now 51 years. For at least the past 10, she has been working hard to improve her marathon time. Her last marathon? She finished with almost exactly the same time as the first marathon she ever ran, at about age 34-35 years. Despite serious work. Despite greater experience.

    You have a different perspective as an athlete in his 20's who continued to perform, but then noted a decline in performance in his 40's.

    When you were never an athlete, never ran, yet began in your 40's there is indeed room to improve performance. When you go from nothing to something, you can improve. When you go from a top performer in your 20's or 30's, age takes its toll at some point.
  • suetorrence
    suetorrence Posts: 163 Member
    I am 67 and began running last December at the age of 66. I was introduced to running by my local Fleet Feet store after buying a pair of shoes for walking when I began the process of losing weight. The owner and my coach for a C25K class and a 101 Half-Marathon class calls me a "freshman" runner. He thinks that my speed and endurance will both improve despite my age. All I know is I have come to love running, cannot imagine not being able to run and look forward to my next half marathon.
  • lporter229
    lporter229 Posts: 4,907 Member
    Thanks for sharing your stories everyone. I find it interesting how everyone's story differs depending on if you were a late or early starter. Personally, I have been running for about 18 years, with the first 6 or so years being just for fitness, averaging about 12-16 miles per week and capping out at 4 mile distances. I ran my first 5 K in 2003 (around a 10 min mile) and my first half marathon in 2004 (2:06). I have since run 6 more HMs and a full, but I never focused on increasing my speed until the last two years. Last year I ran my HM PR at 1:52:03 (hoping to improve on this next week). I am currently training for another full. Because I have been running for a long time, but have not really focused on upping my game until recently, I am not sure which of these categories I fit into. But I definitely agree about injuries and recovery time. I notice it's a lot harder to bounce back after a hard run and those recovery runs are more welcomed than before.
  • DavidMartinez2
    DavidMartinez2 Posts: 840 Member
    Reading the responses here I think the differences are less about how long people have been running and more about what they are running for. The people who seem to be recreational runners who are mainly concerned with fitness have seen decline while those who view running as a competitive activity have maintained or made improvements despite going over 40.

    For those who are finding yourself more prone to injury: us older athletes have to dedicate more time to general fitness than the youngsters. The only injury period I've had in the past year was when I cut out my cross-training to spend more time on distance running. After I cut my mileage back and getting back to a regular cross-training schedule I have been much healthier overall leading to consitent training and better times.