Friday Finds – 17th March

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

There was sad news earlier this week with the announcement that legendary runner Ed Whitlock had died. I included Ed Whitlock in a Friday Finds post earlier this year as well as last autumn when he set a phenomenal record for his age with his sub-4 hour marathon time. Since the announcement of his death from prostate cancer, my news feeds have been filling up with tributes to him, and I wanted to include some of them in my post this week. Goodbye Mr Whitlock. You were a truly amazing example of not letting age be a barrier to achievement.

So what does it take to have the sporting longevity of someone like Ed Whitlock? According to Brad Stulberg, writing for Outside, it’s all in the attitude, and what’s interesting is that the attitude we adopt later in life is largely developed when we’re young. Those more able to embrace sport for the love of participation rather than agonising over results cope much better with seeing performance change with age. My favourite part of this article is the reminder that sport is, “every bit as much about personal growth, community, and having fun. Aging may slow you down but it need not take your identity as an athlete.” Wise words indeed.

Of course we can all expect to see changes is our performance as we get older – after all, no magical fountain of youth has yet been found to stop our bodies ageing – but what exactly can we expect to observe and what does that mean for the way we train? Studies show that we will use oxygen differently, our muscle function will decline and we will need longer to recover from hard workouts. But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. With sensible adjustments to training we can continue to participate for many years, perhaps even remain competitive, we just need to make sure we hold on to the motivation to do so! Personally, my hopes are high: my dad still runs and can still beat me over 5k (but I’ll beat him one day…!)

Some good news for our running performance as we age comes from a new study which suggests that while elite athletes tend to peak between the ages of 25-34, those of us who are a bit less elite may continue improving until around 50. Yes, we will be subject to the same bodily changes that come with age, but since we won’t have trained to the same intensity as elite runners, we still might have something left in the tank to perform well for longer than was previously thought likely. The point about adapting training still holds true, but there is certainly no excuse to be using age as an excuse. And that’s something Ed Whitlock would definitely have approved of!

And finally, if that isn’t enough inspiration to set a positive attitude, embrace the joy of participation and set the foundations for a long and healthy life of sport, then here are some other remarkable athletes showing us that age is no barrier to taking on challenges and pushing limits. Maybe one day we will be just like them.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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