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David Freeze: Gotta Run

It’s all relative

I have thought of covering what I consider an important subject for several months now. On my run this morning, I sorted through some of the thoughts that will highlight this column. My own experiences make up most of the basis for discussion.

Long ago, I set two major goals with my running. One was to eventually complete 100,000 running miles. So far, that one is going well and has a projected success date by 2029. I didn’t mention completion because my second major goal is to run for the rest of my life.

But what will be the quality of that running? Just to set a perspective, I set a fastest mile mark of 4 minutes and 50 seconds as part of a nationally televised race on ESPN. That one simple time mark has become the standard for my own progression into aging. At the top of my racing game in my early 40s, that fastest mile was in my second race of the day and the first mile of an 8K.

We’re all going to slow down eventually, even world class athletes. Have you seen the insurance ads that guarantee lower rates for those who can run an 8-minute mile and a 9-minute mile for those over 40 years of age? Let me assure everyone that only a small portion of our population can beat either mark. For me, it’s getting harder to beat that 8-minute mile even in perfect conditions. As you might imagine, during my peak racing years, that simple 8-minute mark was so easy. At some point soon, I won’t be able to do it. How does that happen?

As we age, lots of things happen to the body. Learn to control the things you can control. Age decreases heart function and aerobic capacity. Degenerative joint disease affects almost everybody as we age. The simple solution is to keep exercising. A ton of orthopedic conditions can develop with age but regular post exercise stretching can make a big difference, needed much more than when younger. Not the best stretcher myself, I am amazed to find the difference between the flexibility of younger runners as opposed to older ones in my group classes. Massage and yoga can help.

Sleep matters as does proper nutrition and hydration. I ran several of my best races on almost no sleep and that wouldn’t happen now. A couple of hours less sleep usually reduces the quality of my morning workout. Nutrition and hydration shortcuts won’t work. Don’t believe the gimmicks.

Slowing down those age-related conditions beyond our control becomes our own responsibility. Some doctors like Lewis G. Maharam, considered by many as the world’s most credentialed sports medicine expert and known as the Running Doc’, says keep running and consider training even more than normal.

I can say this next statement as an absolute fact. Just because we often wake to look at ourselves in the mirror and are surprised to see an older person looking back, running intensity doesn’t have to change from age. My own sub 5-minute mile won’t happen again or even a 6 and most likely a 7 either, even with a severe downhill. But I can still push just as hard to experience my best effort. My older group of running friends, sometimes affectionately called “grizzled veterans”, moan often about their much slower running. They know very well the effort that it takes to push for best results. The same push won’t bring the previous fast times, but my point is that it doesn’t matter. A couple of times a week, make yourself go hard and test yourself. Set goals. Raise that heart rate and be OK with getting out of breath. Don’t count age as an excuse. No matter how fast the result, it’s all relative!

Check out the upcoming races like the new and exciting Gold Rush 5K in Gold Hill and the two established Halloween themed events at the St. Matthew’s 5K and the Spooky Sprint 5K at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org It’s great weather for your outdoor exercise!

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