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The Masters Runner

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12/3/99

Glover addresses the Masters Runner specifically in his books, "The Runner's Handbook" and "The Competitive Runner's Handbook." Both books are very extensive and excellent training guides.

"The Runner's Handbook" was originally published in 1978 and updated in 1985 and 1996. I have the 1996 edition. It covers mostly fundamental stuff, but over a wide range of running and running-related topics and is mostly oriented to the basic beginning runner and those running primarily for fitness and recreation. It touches very briefly on training for racing (60 pages) and an introduction to speed training (10 pages.) It does include a "Masters Runner" chapter that is mostly oriented to the beginning masters runner, but has a lot of fundamental stuff that applies to masters runners of all levels. In it, Glover says the following, "According to Dr. George Sheehan, the famous doctor-runner-author, the principles of running are no different if you are a fifty-, sixty, or seventy-year-old runner than they are for world-class runners in their twenties. Stress is applied, time is taken for the body to adapt, then a little more stress is applied. 'What differs as we age,' said Dr. Sheehan, 'is the amount of stress the body can accept and the time your body requires to adapt. You have to listen to your body. You may not be able to do the same number of miles you did at age 50 when you are age 60. But you may be able to run for the same number of minutes.'" He then goes on to talk about allowing more time for an older body to develop, more recovery from hard sessions, and increased emphasis on stretching to help combat reduced flexibility as we age.

"The Competitive Runner's Handbook" was originally published in 1983 and updated in 1988 and 1999. I started with the 1983 edition, but tossed it when the 1988 edition was published as "The New Competitive Runner's Handbook." The word "New" was then dropped from the title of the 1999 edition. I now have the 1988 and 1999 editions.

This book isn't just for the advanced, fast runner. It's great for runners of all levels of capability who seek to become better racers. It includes chapters dedicated to training for 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon races. The "Masters Competitor" chapter gets into the effects of aging on performance. In it, he does say, "Tempo runs are beneficial since lactate threshold, according to some research, responds better to training for masters runners than other performance variables." However, he doesn't stop with threshold training. He says, "Research by exercise physiologist Michael Pollock at the University of Florida with a group of highly fit masters runners showed only a minimal loss in aerobic capacity over a ten-year period for those who maintained regular quality training and raced frequently." He also gets into the loss with age of fast-twitch muscle fibers and stride length, which is mostly due to reduced flexibility and is the biggest factor in pace reduction. For the former, he says, "Speed training (or at least brisk runs), racing on a regular basis, and weight training minimize the loss of precious fast-twitch fibers and maintain coordination." For stride length, he says, "Fast intervals, hill training, strength training, speed drills, and stretching for the hamstrings and quadriceps are all important factors in minimizing the loss of stride length with aging."

So, Glover is basically recommending that the masters runner continue a balanced program that includes all elements of training, but at a lower level of intensity (mileage, pace and quantity of hard effort) and more allowance for recovery time between hard sessions, since we are more susceptible to injury.

The "Masters Competitor" chapter also has tables of "Age-adjusted Race Time Factors" and Age-graded Race Time Standards "for distances of 5k, 5m/8k, 10k, 10m, 20k, 1/2 mar, and marathon. The first set of tables gives decimal fractions to express the rate of decline based on age as compared with world records by an open-class runner of 20-34 years of age. The latter tables correspond to world record times when the table was compiled adjusted for age. It can be used to compare your actual race performance against a "world class standard" for your age.

I would strongly recommend that you get "The Competitive Runner's Handbook." I've used it as my training bible since shortly after I started running at age 44. BTW, I just noticed that he also mentions his "Masters Runner's Handbook" in the Masters Competitor chapter. I didn't know there was such a book. I'll have to look for it.

Jim2