Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lessons Learned as a 30-Year-Old Runner

30 is not old.  Not even close.  But 30 is also not 20.  It’s not 25 either.  Just like different things being socially acceptable at 25, but not so much at 30 (black out drunk at 25?  Young and fun!  Black out drunk at 30?  Get your shit together), there are things you can do as a runner at 25 that you can’t do at 30.  It doesn’t happen in an instant.  I didn’t wake up on September 26, 2013 and realize I had aged overnight. But in the course of my 30th year, I have noticed a few hitches in my giddy up.  And there’s some good things too.  So as I approach my final month of being 30, I thought I’d pass along some wisdom to those of you who aren’t quite there yet.

You can’t just roll out of bed and run 6:30s – Ya know what guys, I’m just going to start this run at a nice 8:00 pace.  You go on ahead.  I’ll catch up.

In fact, you can’t just roll out of bed and run anything – I used to roll out of my bed and into my running shoes.  Sometimes I was still asleep a good three miles into the run.  Now a 9am run means an 8am wakeup at the latest. I can’t run until I have eaten at least an energy bar and drank a small cup of coffee and both have been successfully digested.  Then, I have to do at least 15 minutes of foam rolling, sticking, pacing and stretching which leads me to…

Stretching is not optional – Like every other distance runner on the planet, I hate to stretch.  I don’t need to recite the lecture you've already heard from your chiropractor, physical therapist and/or massage therapist.  I’ll just say, turns out stretching serves a purpose.  You might be able to get by without stretching for most of your youth, but I promise you it will catch up to you.

The candle only has one end – Just keeping a regular exercise routine while working full-time is a challenge.  Training for a marathon with a demanding job is a whole other level and I don’t even have kids.  For most non-super-humans, there is a shelf-life on 12-hour work days and 100 mile weeks.  I’ve surpassed my expiration date.  I know runners well into their 30s who have not.  The key is knowing when it’s time to back off.  Backing off doesn’t involve waving any white flags, or training any less-hard (I googled the crap out of a better way to say “less-hard”).  It just means training different.  Maybe it’s fewer miles. Maybe it’s easier easy days.  Maybe it’s more prehab.  Maybe it’s an extra day off.  You’ll find what works for you after you find what doesn’t.

Your age group gets way easier – Here’s a good thing.  Nine out of ten times, the 30-34 age group is way easier than the 25-29 age group.  Speaking from New York City running experience, all the Kenyans and Ethiopians are in the 25-29 age group here.  Not that I get too many jollies out of placing in my age group, but  it can be demoralizing to not even crack the top 10 with a time that would have easily placed in the adjacent categories.  Since turning 30?  Top 10 every time.

Just because you can afford every specialist now, doesn’t mean you should go to every specialist – Here’s a rule I wish I had known when I had no money to spend.  If it feels like a stress fracture, it’s a stress fracture.  I just saved you $500 on an MRI.  Ok, so you have a stress fracture.  Stop running.  When it stops hurting, start running again.  Gradually.  I just saved you $100 on a doctor’s office visit.  I still see a lot of specialists, but you’ll spend a lot less if you see them to avoid getting injured as opposed to after getting injured.

You don’t have to keep all your gear – Yeah that race in 2005 was awesome, but I’m pretty sure the stink from nine years of running in the tech shirt is not going to come out with a sandblaster. So maybe it’s time to toss it?

As I said, every runner is different.  At NYRR Team Championships last weekend I got out-kicked by a man who was much older than me.  I looked him up in the results and saw he is 48.  If the race had been decided by age grade, he would have been first overall.  One thing I think is applicable across the board is that no matter what the date is on your drivers license, running keeps you young.  May you all run many more miles for many more years.  We’ll chat again in 10 years when I’m telling you 40 is not 30.

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