Running and Aging: Building Consistency

An essay about how consistency is a key to successful running as an aging athlete.

By on April 5, 2024 | Comments

AJW's Taproom[Author’s Note: This is the first of an occasional series on the unique opportunities and challenges of growing older as a runner.]

Aging as a long-distance runner is filled with challenges. Between staying injury-free and needing more time to recover from hard efforts, the obstacles older runners face seem daunting. At the same time, the wisdom and experience gained over years of running also present opportunities. To me, one of the greatest of those opportunities is building consistency.

Let’s face it, from time to time many of us struggle with consistency in our running. When life gets in the way or the weather turns lousy, it’s easy to hit the snooze button and sleep for another hour. But as we age I find it’s essential to resist that temptation and get out the door.

After several years of struggling with my own running consistency, I have turned a page in running since the start of the year. I attribute this to three key factors:

Make Running a Priority

Like many people, at the start of the year, I pledged to do a few things differently to improve my health and well-being. In that context, I made a list of my priorities and put my daily run at the top.

Most days since then, after enjoying my morning coffee, I have slipped into my running clothes and headed out the door without thinking twice. I have tried to eliminate the tendency to prioritize other things early in the day and focus on the task at hand. In doing so I have established a daily rhythm that is both satisfying and healthy.

2021 Three Days of Syllamo 3

AJW running the 2021 Three Days of Syllamo stage race. Photo: Amanda Harvey

Run in Places That Bring You Joy

I love the neighborhood where I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. Comprised of modest older homes and a smattering of businesses, the Coronado Historic District is a wonderful place to run.

Over the past few weeks, I have mapped out a peaceful 6.2-mile loop that takes me past three lovely parks and up and down several quiet streets filled with other runners, cyclists, and dog walkers. Each day, I smile as I greet others enjoying the start of the day while jump-starting my own. I usually finish each run already looking forward to the next one.

Sunrise in New Zealand

Sunrise in New Zealand. If you can run in places that bring you joy, this improves the process of running. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Run Within Yourself

With the exception of the rare outlier, we all slow down as we get older, and at times, it’s easy to bemoan that fact and long for our younger, faster days. In order to build consistency, I find it important to run within myself and not push beyond my comfort zone.

On my daily sojourns that first mile is always a slog as I struggle to get the heart rate up and settle into a rhythm. Eventually, after about 10 minutes or so, I find things getting smoother as I find a pace that is both rigorous and sustainable. While it’s significantly slower than the pace I ran 20 years ago, it’s certainly enough, and it allows me to recover quickly and get back out there the next day.

There is no doubt that getting older as a runner is hard. Through building consistency by making running a priority, exploring routes that bring you joy, and finding a level of exertion that is challenging but manageable, we can all find ways to keep running part of our daily life which, at least in my case, makes the rest of life that much better.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Stone Brewing in San Diego, California. Stone Hazy IPA is a fruity IPA with a nice blend of hoppy bitterness and juicy sweetness. Weighing in at 6.7% ABV, it is a bold beer with a smooth finish. It is a perfect beer to enjoy on a warm spring evening in the desert.

Call for Comments

  • What opportunities and challenges are presented in your own running as you age?
  • How have you adapted to the processes of both aging and running to make their intersection as pleasant and successful for you as possible?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.