Goodbye, 40-44 Age Group

It’s official. I am 45 years old. I am very happy about this, the reason being that turning 45 means that I have not died yet. And I don’t know about you, but I am very pro not dying.

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My literal birthday

For a long time, I felt a little self-conscious revealing my age. Partly because I wanted to work in television and I assumed there was some sort of bias with anyone over a certain age (and let’s be honest: there is). But now that I’ve embraced the idea of not working in television, I feel a sense of relief about many things – one of which is my age. I love being in my 40s. I’ve honestly never been happier and healthier.

Since I didn’t get bitten seriously with the running bug until 40, this is the first time I’ve experienced the thrill of entering a new age group for races. There are still plenty of fast women in their late 40s and beyond, so it will be interesting to see how I stack up against them.

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Three days before my 26th birthday, I ran a 5K almost a minute per mile slower than I would run a marathon at age 44

One thing I’ve noticed with just about every race I’ve done is the number of women 45-49 is almost always fewer than the number of women 40-44. The largest groups tend to be in their 30s, and then each 5-year group declines from there. Less competition –> more chances of snagging trophies. 😛

Speaking of which, one of my goals over the next few years is to place in the top three of my age group in a NYRR race. I’ve been able to do this in smaller, local races where there might be 15-20 women in my age group. NYRR races are much larger and might have anywhere from 200 to 1200 runners in a 40-something age group (or more, if you’re talking about the marathon). I’m not sure I could ever place top three in a larger race like the marathon or even the Mini 10K (especially when Deena Kastor is running it), but perhaps races like the Pride Run, where last year there were only about 200 women aged 45-49 might there be a possibility of top three placement.

Even then, I still have a lot of work to do. Those top ladies are still super fast.

The closest I’ve come to an NYRR age group top 3 was this past New Year’s Eve Midnight Run when I placed 4th out of 207. But I don’t really count that as an actual race, since the majority of runners – many faster than me – run it casually for fun. Knowing this, I ran it not casually for fun to see how high I could place. I almost made it.

By the way, placing is never my ultimate goal, just a nice icing-on-the-cake goal. And who doesn’t like cake icing?

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Enjoying cake icing on my 25th birthday

This is one of the things I love about running: you might not be in direct competition with the front runners and elites, but you can still compete within your age group, no matter how old you are. Thank you, Ted Corbitt!

I thought I would write a brief summary of things I’ve learned over the last five years of running in the form of an advice list. This is for everyone, whether you’ve hit 40 or not. It seems like a fun way to get this new age group thing started. Let’s go.

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The day before I turned 30 and clearly thrilled about it

ADVICE BASED ON MY LAST 5 YEARS OF RUNNING

Be patient. Everything will happen when it happens. I mean, nothing ever happens before it happens, am I right? This includes getting stronger, getting faster, and feeling better when you’re not. Don’t try to do too much too soon. You’ll get there. And don’t run on pain. Do that and you’ll set yourself back more than you would if you rested.

Be consistent. I ran fairly consistently, although not intensely, throughout my 20s. I ran much less throughout my 30s, and not consistently – I’d run regularly for a few weeks or months and then… not. I’d find reasons not to run. I’d make excuses. I was busy. I was tired. I didn’t care. I was never going to be fast or be able to run longer than an hour, so why bother?

Right before I hit 40, I was 25 pounds heavier than I’d been in my 20s and tired of feeling crappy all the time. I decided to commit to running regularly, no matter what. I had concluded that the feeling of guilt from not taking care of myself was greater than any feeling of discomfort I might experience while exercising. This worked. Five years later, I’m still taking care of myself because I love how it makes me feel, I’m happy with how I look now, and I am a thousand times happier. I will never go back.

This also means you have to run in the rain. Don’t argue with me. Just do it.

Set ambitious but realistic goals. I like to have big goals that are within reach – maybe ones that feel just outside reach, but not entirely impossible. Having A, B, & C goals with varying outcomes is a great idea. For example, in my next marathon, I’d like to:

  • A: Finish in under 3:38 so I can time qualify for the 2020 NYC Marathon
  • B: Finish in under 3:48 to set a new PR
  • C: Finish in one piece and not dead

That first goal is fairly ambitious for me. It would require running an average 8:18 pace or faster. But it’s within reach, I think. It is not physically possible for me to set a new world record or qualify for the Olympics or even run under three hours at this point, so those are not options. But running a marathon in 3:37? Possible.

Don’t up your mileage too fast. Those who have been following this blog for a while may remember that last summer I always had calf issues, my lower legs forever in calf sleeves. This is because I upped my weekly mileage too fast and ran on sore legs. Don’t do this. Increase mileage slowly and be sure to take it down every 3-4 weeks.

Keep track of your workouts. I do this in a spreadsheet because I am anal and I love spreadsheets. You might be fine using Strava, Garmin, Map My Run, or any other type of athletic record-keeping device. This is a great way to see your progress over time, keep an eye on your mileage, and stay motivated. Who wants a bunch of blank spaces on a calendar, anyway?

You are stronger than you might think. Even just two years ago, I had doubts as to whether I could run 26.2 miles. Today, I have no doubts that I can, seeing as I have done it twice. I never imagined that all it would take was time, effort, and proper training. If I can do it, so can you.

You are faster than you might think. Races have been the absolute best way for me to test this theory on myself. RUN RACES! You don’t have to run as many as I do (so far I have… damn, 20 races on my calendar for 2019) but having a goal race is a great way to stay motivated as well as see what you are capable of when given a little extra push. You might surprise yourself.

Get some damn sleep. I know this is hard for some people based on their jobs, schedules, families, and more. But please try. You will feel so much better and you will run so much better.

Eat breakfast before you run. Fueling is always subjective and what works for one may not work for another, but after years of trying different things I’ve found that, for me, eating breakfast (and not just a handful of nuts or dried fruit) about 90 minutes to two hours before I run makes me feel way better. Lately I’ve been loving steel cut oats topped with a fried egg. Find what works for you!

Eat more whole foods and less junk. Good nutrition is key to feeling good and running well. Over the years, my meals have consisted more and more of whole foods – the fewer ingredients, the better. Lately, my diet is 99% vegetables, fruit, rice, beans, lentils, oats, and eggs. One ingredient stuff. Do I still have chocolate and donuts and cookies every now and then? Sure. I save that stuff for special occasions like parties, holidays, and Global Running Day. It’s not about calories, either. I just feel better when I eat better.

Be thankful for your life, your health, and your body. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for the ability to run. I don’t have to run. I get to run. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am. I have a healthy body and it works the way I want it to. How amazing is that? As the title of this blog suggests, I do think of my body as a machine. I know it’s the only one I’ll ever get, so I better take care of it; the more I do this, the more it will give back to me.

Imagine getting a car the day you’re born and it will be the only car you’ll ever be allowed to have. Ever. Wouldn’t you rotate the tires, have the oil changed regularly, and… whatever else people with cars do with their cars? That’s how I think of the human body. You get one. That’s it. Treat it well.

And with that…

Hello, 45-49 age group.

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Birthday selfies: ages 40 through 45. I started making them post-run selfies on my 42nd.