Age-Old Runners: An Introduction

Public Notice: This is the first in a 12-part series about excellent middle-aged runners. If you’re in your twenties or thirties, but you want to run and race well when you’re not, you should keep reading. If you want to better understand how to get the most out of what running offers, you should also keep reading. And if you’ve ever used the words “chugging along” to describe the 45-plus crowd, prepare to have your ideas about your body’s potential blown.

I’m a 47-year-old runner who’s looking to PR in the marathon and the 100 miler.

That’d be a sub-2:54 and a sub-15:07.

Possible? I think so.

“But why do you think it’s possible for you to get faster?” That’s what my friend, Pam Smith, asked me back in January.  She was staying at my house after the Bandera 100k, and I’d sprung a five-year plan of my running goals on her at breakfast. Why did I think I was going to get faster as I waded deeper into middle age? She was interested, not dismissive or critical.

“I don’t know. I just do.”

She looked unimpressed. I poured us both more coffee. But that was all I had for her: a gut feeling.

I didn’t have any detailed training logs to support my belief. And I do understand that most middle-aged runners aren’t getting faster as they move toward 65 years old. I know all about the fun physical changes that happen to a runner’s body as it ages. And I’ve read the slew of recent articles and reports about ultrarunners who are making peace with the limitations of their older bodies.

But calculating probabilities has never been my strong suit. And not paying careful attention to what is probable has always served me well in running. I’ve won races and run well blissfully ignorant that I should set my sights lower. So after Pam helped me refine my racing plan, I continued training with my eyes set on PRing first in the marathon and then in 100 miles. Along the way, I wanted to qualify for the U.S. 100k team again.

Then in April, this happened in my training log.

Workout Notes: What a rotten 20 miler! I felt like dog poop on the bottom of somebody’s shoe. Ugggggh.

Coach’s Comment: You should consider that you’re perimenopausal. Running is often affected negatively before you hit menopause. (That’s the gist of the comment. My memory of the exact words are blurred by emotion.)

Perimenopausal?!?!!!

For the record, my coach is categorically wonderful, and this article won’t be about how fraught it is for a young coach to dutifully tell a 47-year-old woman that her running might be affected by perimenopause.

But, the thing is, while I meet the age requirements for perimenopause (I looked it up), it was also the first really hot day we’d had that year, so my crappy run might just have been crappy because I wasn’t acclimatized to the heat. Or it might have been just a random crappy run­–and not crappy because I was circling a menopausal drain.

Sheesh!

I called my husband Eliot at work.  “Hi, it’s your perimenopausal wife. Do you have five minutes to talk?” He navigated the landmines I set before him admirably.

Then I texted three good girlfriends. “Yeah, periMENOPAUSAL!”

I never thought I carried around much baggage about becoming an older woman, but, it turns out, of course I do. Once I was done text-venting and being soothed by unconditional support, I finally began to flesh out my thoughts about aging and running.

I know my body is aging. My hair is turning gray. The skin above my upper lip is wrinkling like an old woman on the Simpsons. And I have loose neck skin. I never noticed my neck skin before I turned 45. But when I put moisturizer on my face now, I think, Don’t forget that neck skin! The skin over my thighs is also looser. My hands look like my mother’s–which I like. Clearly, if all this is happening on the outside, things are changing on the inside too.

Author Liza Howard wanted to show you all her neck skin. All photos: Liza Howard

But two things:

  1. I don’t think I’ve reached my potential as a runner. Sure, I don’t have as much potential as I used to, but even with less potential at age 47, I still think there’s potential there. Of course, if you’ve run marathons professionally in your twenties and thirties, you’re not going to get any faster in middle age. You did reach your potential for that distance–or came pretty darn close. But a lot of us have never gotten anywhere close to running as fast as our bodies are capable of. And, as far as ultrarunning goes, we don’t have enough data to even say what a person’s potential is in middle age.
  2. More importantly, it’s not useful for me to scrutinize the impact my age has on my running performances. It’s not motivating. In fact, it’s wildly demotivating. Some people might think: Watch what a 47-year-old body can do! Not me. If I thought about it, I’d think: I’m 47, so I’m not likely to do as well as I did when I was 46; I shouldn’t try as hard. And, honestly, that’s only a few steps away from: I should just stay home and eat donuts.

Some napkin ruminations about athletic potential.

I talked my ideas over with my coach. (Let us never speak of my neck skin again!) And then I talked about aging and potential with my middle-aged running friends. I talked about it with the middle-aged runners I coach. We all wondered what other middle-aged runners who are still competing for overall wins and podium spots think about their bodies’ abilities and potential as they get older. We wondered about middle-aged runners whose performances continue to improve as they age. We wondered about older runners who are simply strong, healthy, uninjured, and running well. How are they all training? What are they all thinking? What can we learn from them? (Are there secret elixirs?)

This new article series, which we start today and which we lovingly call ‘Age-Old Runners,’ originates out of my desire to learn more. So, going forward, each month we’ll interview other middle-aged runners to see what their experiences with aging are, how they see their potential, and how they’re going about achieving it. We’ve started a list of runners to interview, but I’d like to know who you think I should talk to and what questions I should ask. Which middle-aged athletes do you admire? Whose training secrets would you like to know? Who’s achieved enlightenment? Whose story should be told? Also, I need help with my interview request wording. “Hi, I noticed your neck skin is loose…”

See you here every month for the next year as we explore these stories and more.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Alright, here we go! Who should Liza interview in the next year? And what do you want to know from the successful middle-aged runners she speaks with?

Liza Howard

is a longtime ultrarunner who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She teaches for NOLS Wilderness Medicine, coaches, directs the non-profit Band of Runners, and drives her kids around in a minivan.

There are 92 comments

  1. Alicia

    I think your napkin drawing is exactly it! I always think of it as, sure, maybe getting training/racing/life 95% correct as a runner later in life might not get you to the same performance level that getting all of those things 95% correct as a 20-year-old would have, but that doesn’t mean that getting them 95% correct as a 50-year-old can’t put you ahead of where you made it to by getting them, say, 80% correct as a 20-year-old.

    1. Liza

      Thanks, Alicia! It just seems like our bodies are so strong, and barring illness and injury, they’re capable of doing more than we tend to expect from them.

    2. Janet Hawn

      I see AJW on here. Please interview Andy Jones-Wilkins. Even with hip surgeries, Andy is amazing. And attitude- wonderful. I’m 64 and slow, but love getting out there!

  2. Jason

    Oh I’m looking forward to this series. 52 and wondering if I’m getting slower after a couple of problem races. My image of my age-performance graph has a lower slope after the apex, wishful thinking perhaps but the plan is to apply the learnings of the past and future, to tune training effectiveness, avoid injury and optimize race schedule (and balance family needs!). No magic bullets, just the will to last.

    1. Liza

      Amen! about the will to last. And the slope of that graph is affected more by the difficulties of drawing on napkins than anything else. :)

  3. Jeff Rome

    Liza, interview Tim Mosbacher! He’s run a marathon in almost every state and just ran his PR earlier this year, a 2:48 at age 53. I think his magic elixir is Mountain Dew. I’d like to know if age-old runners think taking years off of running helps with longevity. Or if starting running later in life is maybe more beneficial for speed in the later years than being a consistent runner from a young age. I’m excited for this series!

    1. Liza

      Thanks so much for the recommendation, Jeff! And thanks for the questions. Those are good ones. Mountain Dew, eh? We need to compile a secret elixir list — just for fun.

  4. AT

    Whatever Jeff Browning is doing, something is working!!

    He appears to focus on consistency, not so much intense training blocks, strength and mobility, and his diet is pretty dialed in, whether you agree with it or not..something is aligning well with his genetics..

    Power on!

    1. Liza

      Very true. Would it be wrong to omit people from the interview list if it turns out their clean diets don’t support my donut-eating habits?

  5. Andy

    Look forward to this. As a 55 year old with about 20 years of running and 10 years of ultras behind me I’ve definitely been slowing down the last few years and devolving from mid-packer into cutoff chaser (or worse, timer outer!), despite mixing speed work into my regular training. Blaming it on age but who knows? As for runners worth talking to, there are so many, but Beast Coast legend Jack Pilla comes to mind – 61 and still racing regularly and placing top 20 (or better) at all distances.

    1. Liza

      Thanks for that suggestion, Andy! This is going to be fun. I’ve been thinking a lot about race time cutoffs and what makes sense — when they’re not dictated by safety, permitting or volunteer power.

  6. Alexander R

    I’m 53 now and I was running very well at 47, 48 and even at 49. Close to my all-time PRs. Not quite there, but close. It’s easy to get delusional and to start thinking that it will last forever. However, since I hit 50 I was slowing down every year, and significantly. Same (if not harder) training, same weight, everything is the same, except my times. Just my two cents

    1. Liza

      Thanks, Alexander. I sure don’t mean to say that we can continue to get faster as we age — though that seems like a book title that would sell well. But it seems like we don’t know exactly when the slowing will start and how steep the decline will be. I’m curious about the body’s potential as we get older and what seems reasonable to aim for. And, more importantly, what value running hard can continue to have for someone.

  7. Sabrina Little

    This is awesome, Liza! You should interview the timeless champ, Sophie Speidel. She’s so strong, wise, and beats people half her age.

  8. Deserae

    This is a wonderful idea. I wouldn’t consider her middle age, but obviously Darcy Piceu is doing something right with the season she had in 2018.

    1. Liza

      Darcy might just squeak into a qualifying age if I interview her at the very end of the series. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled. ;)

  9. Sarah Lavender Smith

    I love you & your writing, Liza!
    FWIW I turned 50 this year, and I feel a difference between ultrarunning & road marathoning. I feel I’m still fulfilling my potential in mountain/ultra/trail. But, last March, I trained hard & seriously for a marathon, and my time was way slower than when I PRed at the same marathon 10 years earlier (3:42 v. 3:05).
    Thanks for starting this column! I second the nomination of Sophie S.

    1. Liza

      First off, congratulations on Grand to Grand!! Yeah, it seems like the ultra potential napkin graph and the road sub-ultra potential napkin graph are different. It’s a good question to add. And thanks for the nomination second. :)

  10. John Vanderpot

    Oddball I’ve always been, speed never really interested me much, but distance and endurance (say 2-3 ultras per month?) has fascinated me from the start (recently finished my 8th year) and “holding steady” seems to work?

    The name Scotty Mills comes to mind pretty quick when this topic comes up…

  11. Rich

    Of course we typically measure ‘getting better’ in terms of absolute times, but I prefer to think of getting better as a runner as whether I think I am learning to be a better runner and making progress towards my absolute potential. So far, at 56, that progress is not impeded by any (potential/likely) declines in absolute potential. My belief is that more often the motivation to progress as a runner (that is, do the hard work) begins to taper before the true physical realities of age actually become the limiting factor.
    As an aside, Joe Friel’s book, ‘Faster after 50’, is a great starting point for any master’s athlete.

    1. Liza

      I have that one on my bookshelf! I need to pull it out again. What you wrote about motivation rings true to me too. It’s a good question to ask. I like your idea of looking at potential more holistically too — with speed as just one aspect of a runner’s potential. :)

  12. Buddy Teaster

    My friend and guy I definitely want to be when I grow up, Drew Meyer, in Fort Worth TX. He’s 72 and still crushing 100 milers. Super data driven and willing to try damn near anything. He didn’t start ultras till he was in his 50s (I think) and was a serious bodybuilder before that.

    1. AT

      I had to look up his resume when I saw he is 72, WOW..he really is a trail OG..I just pray I am alive in 40 years let alone still running 100’s..huge respect!!

  13. Lesley

    Liza — you may enjoy “Roar” by Stacy Sims, PhD…she looks at how training as a woman is different from training as a man and particularly goes over the peri/pre/full on menopause issues and provides solutions…may be a nice union between her studies and your undertaking (I am a 44 year old marathoner/ultramarathoner and definitely feel like I am in the weeds right now trying to get “fit” again so find your article inspiring…thank you).

  14. Virginia

    Well, this hit the spot for me. Being 54 years old and just having started my running career a meer 4 years ago, I still struggle with “Is that hamstring issue due to me pushing to far too fast or is it because I’m getting old?”. I’m inclined to chalk it up to “pushing to far too fast” because I’ll be damned if I let age define me!

    I’ll definitely be following this series as I would love to know the secrets of those who are out there laying it down. I’ve moved from a back of the pack to somewhere in the middle and would love to figure out how to get to the front!

    1. Liza

      Wonderful, Virginia! It’ll be interesting to see when some of these folks started running too — and how that’s impacted their development as runners.

  15. Ryan

    I’m in my mid-30’s, but didn’t start running until my late 20’s. I’m at the point where I want to see what I’m capable of, because I don’t think I have many good years left to see what my potential is. This gives me a bit more hope that I can probably have many more good years into my 40’s and 50’s (as long as I’m healthy).

    This also reminded me of runners like Bernd Heinrich, who didn’t start running until his late 30’s, and his marathon PR came at 41 (I believe), around 2:20. He went on to set ultra records into his late 40’s and 50’s.

    1. Liza

      2:20! Dang! It feels more hopeful and interesting to me to think of it as “What is my body’s potential this age?” rather than “How long can I maintain my 20 and 30 year old speed?”

  16. Jim Skaggs

    I PR’d 50K, 50 mile, and 100K at the ripe old age of 56. I did have some solid training, but nothing really out of the ordinary for me. Now that I’m 60, I have slowed down some, but I still have this idea that I can get some of my speed (speed being a relative term) back provided I have some training focus. Looking forward to more in this series and also looking forward to many more years of showing young whippersnappers how to run :-)

  17. Doug K

    all the fast middle-aged or older runners that I know of, fit one of two profiles:
    – started running seriously late in life
    – ran seriously earlier, then took an extended break from running before coming back.

    There are vanishingly few fast older runners who have been running seriously all their lives.. it wears you out, simply.
    It takes about 5-10 years from starting training seriously to PR times, can maybe hold on until 15 years.
    I’d really like to hear of any counterexamples, but haven’t seen any in my forty-odd years of running and following running..

    Up to age 50, I could still run a 20min 5k off of about 5 hours a week of working out, bike swim and 5-10 miles/week of running as injuries permit. Here’s how it has gone since 50 (in 2010), on the same or increased training, a 5k race I try to do every year,
    2010 20:31,
    2013 22:37,
    2015 23:25,
    2018 24:27,
    2019 25:50

    1. Liza

      Doug, It’ll be interesting to see where the folks I interview fall into that breakdown. What qualifies as running seriously? Is there a particular volume? Speed? Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge. :)

      1. Doug K

        ‘serious’ is not a question of volume or speed I think, more about the sustained work load. Typically ‘serious runner’ means there are some kind of performance goals, meeting those requires training, training is then done according to whatever notions are currently prevalent. But typically this will mean running 5-7 days a week with a weekly long run in there somewhere, and probably too much speedwork and tempo running. Do that for enough years without a break, and the training response appears to be blunted, as well as an accumulation of chronic injuries.

    2. Jennifer O'Connor

      That’s consistent with my non-scientific observations, too. I often think the fast older folks have “young legs” compared to mine. I’m not so old yet (51 next month), but I’ve been running pretty consistently for over 25 years.

  18. Angie Woolman

    Thank you for this article and the upcoming ones. I am 65 and I liked the napkin graph too.
    It is lovely to see all the blogs and articles noting that collecting (years of) consistent and healthy training is key. As an aside but maybe would be a good research or article topic… “Onset of age when one starts long-distance running, and how that affects longevity and performance in ultra running.”
    I was 54 when I started, menopause at 42 (Oh no!), and now 10 yrs later, I am still loving it and running very well some of the time. Happily so.
    For those in their late 40’s and 50’s, the super good news is that you can always be strategic in your racing. And you can exercise the multiple outcomes of those long long races and what the different outcomes have and will teach you. These are very enriching experiences later in life. And remember… when you have to walk or slow your running for any reason, you meet more people, and you take better photos!

  19. Mike

    Hi Liza- I’m 47 and have been running marathons and ultras for 10+ years and have a 4 year old daughter. My running has definitely taken a back seat but this has been my strongest summer since her birth. I still feel that my best running years are in front of me and look forward to reading this series. You should look up Allen Hadley from Crested Butte on Ultrasignup. Someone I’ve looked up to and gotten advice from since my pre-ultra days. An absolutely amazing, consistent runner at the age of 62. If I could only run like Al…..

  20. Lisa

    I am a 51 year old woman. HS track and cross country. Took my college years off but running steadily the past 25 years. My PR were in my mid 30’s from 5k-100 milers. The past 2 years have been challenging with minor injuries and just feeling slow. I am looking forward to your articles!

    1. Liza

      Thanks, Lisa. I’m sorry you’ve dealing with minor injuries. I definitely hope we gain some insight about injury prevention through these interviews.

  21. Julie

    As someone who just entered the Masters category in 2018, this interests me a lot. There’s no one I look up to more than runners older than me who are kicking my butt or accomplishing major distances. A few of those people are Anita Ortiz, Adrian Stanciu, Mark Tatum and Matt Carpenter (retired from racing).

    1. Liza

      Thanks or the recommendations, Julie! I have an article about one 51 y.o. runner up on my fridge that inspires me every time I open the door.

  22. Sophie Speidel

    Thank you, Liza, for creating this series! I look forward to learning from my “senior” peers. And happy to share what works for me. I would love to hear from all those folks who have been named, as well as Jack Kurisky and John Andersen over here in Virginia. Two amazing masters runners balancing career, kids, and competitive racing.

  23. Rick

    Hey Liza, absolutely loving this thread! I am withholding my age, don’t want to have to use scientific notation or exponentiation. My mindset goes something like this; I am an older runner, should know better but, I just don’t know that can’t do whatever run or race I want to try, delusional or not, it gives me lots of freedom to just go out and have an incredible experience whether I succeed or fail in my attempt.

    Can’t wait to see how this plays out!

  24. KristinZ

    You must interview Meghan (Arbogast) Laws, Nancy Hobbs, and Anita Ortiz for sure!!! I definitely have never maxed out my speed and fast training because it’s too darn enjoyable just to go out and run to enjoy it… to tromp through the hills and mountains for me… but every once in awhile I do wonder what it would be like to actually focus on speed… and then I go slog away up high again in the mtns w a big grin on my face. :) can’t wait to read these articles!!!

  25. Alicia

    There’s a timely (ahem) and interesting analysis of this that just appeared in this article, https://runningmagazine.ca/the-scene/lyndsay-tessiers-and-krista-duchenes-age-defying-performances/?fbclid=IwAR0XOg55twM5ZMP_ohkDdbKBboXnGfkz6-yOgslxSEUJr486sGILhOfeuqU

    Also, oddly enough, I just scrolled past an article on Twitter about how pro soccer players are getting older in average age. One of the factors identified was just a better overall knowledge base re training and recovery, which is one of the points the Canadian running article above makes too.

  26. Allan Klassen

    I enjoyed the article and I’m looking forward to the series as I contemplate this past year of running and plan for next year. I started running seriously at 50 (first marathon and first 50k ultra) and am now 60, having done one of my best years with three 100k’s, a 125k ultra, and a 24 hour track ultra this year. There are some nagging doubts — aren’t I too old to be doing this? — but I’m running well and am uninjured, so I might as well keep trucking on and make the cutoffs. A book I liked recently was “Run Strong, Stay Hungry: 9 Keys to Staying in the Race” by Jonathan Beverly.

  27. Caolan macmahon

    If your coach is using “perimenapausal” as an explanation, I’d certainly recommend a Looong pause indeed. we needn’t find a nice tidy, one-size-fits-all explanation to explain away these things and make us somehow feel that this is just how “it is”. We are all an experiment of ONE and how we respond to aging is very very individual. Having some pat answer that applies to all (women especially) of a certain age undermines our individual potential. I’ve found that many older runners continually fall back on the “I’m old” excuse, and that tends to start when they are not even close to being “old”, whatever number that may be. I work with runners of all ages, and I can tell you that my “older” runners who still think they are young, and who go after big goals, fare very well compared with their younger selves. A lot of this has more to do with our perceptions of ourselves rather than our biological age.

  28. Vicki Romanin

    This is awesome. Really hope you can interview Nicky Spinks – age 52. (see results Tor des Geants, British “Rounds”, for start) Looking forward to following her amazing results as she navigates through her 50’s, 60’s, and beyond. At 59, my favourite distance is 100 Miles or longer (though I know you need a “mix” to keep sharp). Believe it definitely suits the grit we develop with age. Neck wrinkles be damned… ;D

  29. Micah Ward

    I echo the suggestion on Jeff Browning and would add Frank Bozanich. Not sure if Frank is running ultras any more but he was winning races in his 50s and 60s.

  30. Karla

    Looking forward to the series. Definitely Jeff Browning, Karl Meltzer, Meghan Laws, Magda Boulet, and Gunhild Swanson.

    I’m 55 and since turning 50 have hit lifetime PRs in distances from 5K- Marathon. Somehow I’m still able to compete for OA podium spots in many of my races. I know that can’t last for long, but I’m enjoying the ride while it does, and will continue to enjoy it when it doesn’t. I know I’m not as fit as I could have been in my 20’s, but I offset it by being slightly less stupid about training. I did have a very long 20 year break in between, and I do think that has something to do with it. I also discovered 5 years ago that I was anemic, and likely had been all of my life. The difference in how I felt when running was extreme once I started iron supplements.

    I’ve discovered the ultra/trail world and never plan to go back to the roads again. I think the hills and distance are great equalizers for age and gender. I wish I had found this side of the sport 20 years ago, but better now than 20 years from now!

  31. Alex L

    Jan-Albert Lantink would be a great interviewee.
    He is an ultra-runnner and is downright awesome winning races against competitors much much younger (he is in his sixties).

  32. Markus

    Maybe it’s time to interview some people we haven’t heard of yet.
    To go after the some names (most mentioned above) over and over again, is kind of boring.

  33. Rob Decot

    I started running at 44 and as a competitive age grouper, set PRs, across the board at 45. 6:30 is the new 6:00 I like to say. It’s still fun to get on a plane and in order to find the fastest 50 year olds out there.

  34. Gillian

    Something great about ultra running is the mix of terrain and running and hiking that allows us to keep doing this (hopefully) for decades. I’m “young” at 40 but I hope to be out there on the trails for the rest of my life with the help and advice of other great runners and of course a great coach! I think you should interview both elites like Bronco Billy but also regular folks too. Looking forward to following along!

  35. Katie W

    Have to chime in to agree with all of the others giving kudos to this concept! I always appreciate when our sport’s media spends time on those who aren’t anywhere near a podium, especially if they’re putting 40 hrs/week into their career and were *never* a speedster. Those are interesting stories.

  36. Allen Hadley

    I humbly re-direct any idea of me being a worthy subject for opinions or knowledge of maturing running performance to a much more deserving person. Contact the guy who is maintaining the longest record of sub-3hour marathons….The Honorable Blake Wood from Los Alamos, NM…oh and he just happened to finish 20 Hardrock 100s in his career.

  37. Graham

    Don’t forget the older runners who don’t give up.

    I used to be quick and in my 20s and 30s could do a 60 minute 10 miler. In my 40s I moved into longer distance and ultras and whilst I noticed my times were slowing, I thought it was all the distance work. Last year I was laid up for several months after a knee injury (probably the longest layoff in nearly 40 years) and on my return I’m finding an acute lack of speed and endurance. Tim Noakes in his Lore of Running writes about long time runners getting to a point where they can no longer get any response to training stimulus and decline; as I plodded round 8 miles taking the same time as I would have done for 10 a couple of years ago today, I wondered if I’d hit that point.

    Well, if I’m not going to run fast then I’ll run slow. The effects on my head haven’t reduced anyway, even if the physical ones might have. :-)

    1. Liza

      I won’t, Graham. I’m curious about the body’s continued potential as we age, but, like you, speed is not what keeps me running or makes it valuable to keep going. Being a runner and receiving what running has to give does not require a particular speed.

  38. Lightning

    Mountain runner Nancy Pease would be a good interview. Amazing CRs 25+ years ago, and still super fast in well into her 50s (look at Bird Ridge hill climb statistics). Sheryl Loan also competitive with her too in the same age group, but came from cycling. Male mountain runner Barney Griffith is open competitive now 60+.

  39. Gregory Loomis

    I think knowing ones body, how it reacts to certain stimuli, and during races… how to push… and what to fuel with create a huge potential to improve as you age. However, a 50 year old has much less growth hormone and testosterone circulating. It is impossible for a 50 year old super-fit well trained body to beat that same level super-fit 30 year old. You lose 1% of your lean muscle mass PER YEAR starting at age 25!!!! Unless supplementing with exogenous hormones it is a SLOW slide. Luckily, in ultra running, the experience and “mental game” are so big that performance does not have to slip much. We all know plenty of 50-something runners who are still killing it. That makes me at 45 years old pretty happy. Still when I look at my peers that were running ultras strongly in 1999 ( when I started). Although many are still at it, most of us are no longer winning. Check out ultra signup results trendlines for my former Montrail teammates: Scott Jurek, Ian Torrence, Mark Godale, Hal Koerner, Rob Youngren, and especially me Gregory Loomis. We used to have a column in Ultrarunning mag called the 20-something ultra runner. It’d be fun to see a “where are they now” piece. So certainly keep at it, aim high and train hard.
    But, ultimately we all are training to be the best that we can be at whatever age we are. If you are not training to get better you are most certainly going to be getting worse….mother nature and father time are undefeated.

    1. Chuck

      Gregory, I disagree about your lean muscle mass comment. I am 51 and my lean muscle mass has never been higher. I don’t take “supplements” just incorporated a lot more strength training into my regimen. As you get older you need to adapt, not just keep doing the same old training you were doing at 30. I ran my marathon PR at 45 and my 50k PR at 46. My 20 year old Half marathon PR just went at 51. I’m not elite but my endurance has improved and my average speed has changed little over the last decade.

    2. Liza

      Thank you for this comment and insight, Gregory. “If you are not training to get better you are most certainly going to be getting worse.” I’m stealing this line. Please.

  40. CLF

    Look up Heath Hibbard on UltraSignup – still killing it at 66 in CO mountain races (marathon and shorter). Off the chart results.

    My experience –
    ***ran a marathon shortly before turning 16 in 1978. That’s what everybody does right?
    ***ran track/cc in HS and D1 collegiate (where you learn you’re not that talented after all)
    ***continued several years afterwards before the typical post-collegiate burnout
    *moved to CO, took up various mountain sports (bc skiing/skimo; MTB racing, etc…)
    ***ditched MTB for mountain running/racing a few years later, but still focus largely on skiing in the winter – 50/50 split between seasons
    ***running career part deux is now at least twice as long as part one
    ***first 100 roughly 33 years after that first marathon (when I was too young and would get injured/burnt out of course ). Never ever could have imagined I’d be here now

    All that said the wheels (speed) are definitely coming off here on the back nine of the 50’s. No loss of fitness, endurance, or training, but when you ran your easy morning runs in college faster than your 5k race times now it’s kinda sobering – absolutely no way I’ll ever approach those prime time PRs. That said, there were no mountains in sight for me back in those days so I can always set a PR at a mountain/trail race I’ve never run if I so choose, and they’re usually a lot more fun. Let the good times roll!

  41. Robert Tegtmeier

    I’m seventy and just ran the Pikes Peak Ascent for the first time in 40 years! (Wanted to run a race with my son). Guess what’s of note is I haven’t run much in the last 40 years since I was tenth overall in the 1977 Pikes Peak marathon. I ran a 2:37 flat marathon that year also. I was 810th out of over 1700 runners this year without running training. I only played singles tennis and played tennis tournaments. I cross country ski race in that season. I do some 20-30 seconds HIIT though when hiking in the mountains though when hiking with my wife and grandkids. I am on mostly Keto diet since discovering I had cancer. I wonder if there are others who have similar training or old guy experiences!

    1. Liza

      This is awesome! Congratulations! I am sorry you are dealing with cancer now. I hope the keto diet proves useful. Here’s to your strength! Do you plan to run Pikes again with your son?
      (Also, I am taking up tennis. :) )

  42. I McD

    I started running in my mid 30s. I’m no speedster by any means but I just PR’d in the 10K two weeks ago (45:11) – took 48 seconds of my previous PR. Still think I can get sub-45.
    I’m 50.

  43. Joshua Ritter

    I’d be curious to hear from runners who didn’t start winning until they hit middle age (either overall wins or age-group). He’s slightly under your target age range, but I’d be curious to hear from Ryan Smith – first ever win is at Leadville at age 40. How does that happen?

  44. PK

    I’m looking forward to reading this series! I didn’t start running until my 50’s (now 57). Over the past 5 years I’ve completed various ultras, including a 100 miler, and won an entry to WSER (now pushed to 2021). Whereas I’m a back-of-the-packer, I’m convinced I can still make gains in my performance!

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