Can Runners Have ‘Too Many Miles on the Tires’?

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  • #12492


    Can Runners Have ‘Too Many Miles on the Tires’?

    Interesting question. The first question, though, is whether “late onset” runners do have an advantage over long time runners of the same age. I don't think we have the answer to this. I do know that, of the best age group distance runners I know, most were “late onset” runners but this is hardly proof that they have an advantage.

    If the advantage does exist, I suspect a lot of it has to do with what's above the shoulders more than what's below the shoulders. Racing is hard. Doing so at a high level for years or decades on end wears on you mentally. I can see that a bit in myself. When I was younger, I raced my guts out almost every race no matter the situation. If I was leading, even more reason to run hard. I wanted a fast winning time. Now? Look at my race this past weekend. I was leading and, while I pushed hard, I did let up a little in the second half. It wasn't pedal to the metal all the way to the finish line. I just didn't have the motivation to do so. It's not like I was running for a PR, it's not like I've never run eyeballs out to see what I'm made of.

    Not only on race day, though. In training, I just don't have the motivation to push myself as hard as I did 10-15 years ago. Yes, some of that has to do with where I am in my life compared to where I was 10-15 years ago. However, I do think some of it is just that I'm not interested in pushing myself that hard day in, day out anymore. I still train hard and challenge myself but, no matter what limitations I had in my non-running life, I don't think I would find the motivation at this point in my running life to keep pushing through 2+ hours a day nearly every day of running with brutal workouts. That's what I'd need to keep competing at the highest level possible and I just don't think I have it in me, above the shoulders, to do that anymore. Again, I'm not chasing PRs or seeing what I'm made of. My PRs are in the past and I know from what I've already done what I'm made of.

    I'm not saying I'm an “older” runner yet (I still refuse to admit I'm “older” no matter what anyone tells me) but I am more open to accepting the term “experienced runner”. After all, I've been at this thing for over 2 decades at a competitive level and I can see my mindset has changed over the last decade. I wouldn't say in a negative way. I think of it more as a natural evolution as someone who has been competing for so long I can now measure it in terms of decades.

  • #32455


    Structurally, yes some runners just wear out.  Others carry the burden of injuries suffered over the years (running and non-running) and just
    pull back or out.  It is also not uncommon for people over 40 to develop some sort of chronic disease or inherited disorder to deal with.  It all
    goes into the mix.

    Sometimes the expectations are too high with mileage.  In my experience the mileage really helps, but when people don't see the results
    they expect the perception is they are worn out.  It's call aging and again I don't notice it as much in shorter races, but definately in the
    marathon and beyond.  For instance I was 4th out of 307 finishers at the Bear Trax 20k for which I do not aim for, but was 28th out of
    about 280 finishers at Ice Age which was my goal race.  Similar to Al's last year when I was 41st out of almost 3,000 and 41st out of about
    120 finishers at the Voyageur 50 mile last year.  All on long or slower miles between 8-9 pace.  It seems in the long ones (when you are
    dealt multiple issues) it is harder to respond to or overcome when you are older.  On the same hand, most of the people who beat me
    around my age in any race distance are experienced runners and few are onset runners.  Now before everyone thinks 8-9 minute miles is
    the new sweet spot, I am closing in on 1,200 miles for the year.

    What I clearly see at 50 is less people enter races in the older age groups.  You really do analyze the need to race, especially someone
    like me who runs because it is a part of me.  Because some race seldom or at all, the need to get out and train decreases.  This isn't
    exclusive to running.  Call it whatever you want, the fire to test the metal isn't always there.  For me, I just like to train and doing mini
    tapers or loosely cobbled together workouts doesn't work for me.  I don't want to run 25 – 40 a week.  I want to run 60 – 80 a week and
    running slower enables me to do this. 

    So I don't believe it's too many miles, I believe it is perspective.  You have to adjust, be willing to change, and keep it fresh.  it also
    shouldn't prevent one from filling up the barn with hay in case you have to swing from the rafters now and then and put a beating
    on someone.

  • #32456


    As always, very interesting thoughts Double. As I was reading your post, I was also wondering if people who have been running for some time might also run into a brick wall by trying to relive the glory days of their past. Try doing what their bodies would allow at 20 but won't allow any more at 40 and break down.

  • #32457


    I think many of us are prone to that.  For me it is the hard workouts.  The recovery is just not there.  So, instead of
    a lot of harder speed type workouts I make up for it by LSD or day in and day out consistency which contrary to
    popular belief is still a powerful medium for distance running.  I am more inclined to run a fast tempo run for
    20-25 minutes and not worry about the distance or pace.  Just so the effort is there.  Obviously hills are a good way
    to increase power and my recommendation is about 10 minutes work fairly hard.  For example, I find a hill which
    takes about 2 minutes to get up and then I run it 5 times.  I don't concern myself with the splits.  The same applies
    for any size hill one wants to run.  Time the first one and then run as many as you need to to reach your goal.  Good
    workout w/ high benefit. 

    After a short Ice Age recovery I am going to start hitting Hart Park on Tuesday for my weekly speed work.  I believe
    I'll run some short races this Summer and then pick something for the Fall.  Back to your point, I believe taking the
    hard workout road as in the past is a hard proposition.  I make the mileage alone my key fitness feature and then add
    speed elements as necessary.  I don't need to do 8 x 800m at 2:30 – 2:35 when 10% less plays it safe and I live to run
    another day.  I am beyond proving to myself I'm fast based on one workout.  I don't need this type of confirmation as
    any one who ran in College lived.

  • #32458


    I can see some of what you're talking about in myself. I'm not sure it's all age in my case. Over the past few years, I've tried doing some of the same workouts I did 10-15 years ago and it was like beating my head against the wall. While I think it's as much the lack of base I had 10-15 years ago as age, though I'm sure my body isn't quite as resilient at 35 as it was at 20 or 25, I can see this. That's actually why I generally avoid the track these days. I don't want to get on the track and get sucked into trying to hit splits I would have 10-15 years ago. I'd rather just convert those workouts to time-based workouts and do them on the road or trail.

  • #32459


    Being a good example of someone with adult onset running disorder (AORD) I see and read the wisdom of the “older” years but can't help to wonder “what could I have done” or how far can I push myself regardless of my age?  It is an odd situation to be in becuase I want to run like I am half my age (or less) yet my age sometimes hits home fast and hard.

    I guess I can wait and see how things shake out for me – keep on running, follow my coaches advice and give her hell on race day.

  • #32460


    Interesting topic–one I like to ponder from time to time–and it can be looked at from a number of different angles.

    Peak performance (your best years): Most have 10 to 15 years. start developing by age 14-15, improve for 7 to 10 years and if you can keep healthy an at it hold on at about the same level for 5 or 6 (maybe 10) years.

    Late starters will follow a similar arc but the improvement curve is often shorter on the development side and not as high. When was the last time you heard of a sub 2:10  marathoner or 13:15 5K runner who started training at 25? But sometimes you do get 2:20, mid-low 14 in types who started late and peak in the 40s.

    Indeed some of the best masters runners were late starters or early starters who took a long break (Pete Magill). A few have kept at it and were great at 25-30 and were still good-great at 50 or 55, e.g., Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Linda Somers Smith.

    A very small minority can peak or almost peak at 40-42, but then things drop off fairly markedly. The level and number of competitors also really declines at 45 and beyond.

    At 50 it was like I looked around and said, hey where'd everyone go? I now run 5K 2 to 2.5 minutes slower than 20 or 25 years ago. Back then I was just a decent local runner and didn't have to travel far to get pounded into the ground by good former college runners within 5 years either way of my age.

    The other week I won my age group in an okay effort (17:35), but was 2.5 minutes ahead of the next guy. It's not just the pounding from running either; same thing is happening in XC skiing. I'm staying at about the same level as at 46-50 and the other guys are just falling back. I grew late, is that a factor?

    There is still a big gap between some of the top guys in my age group (so far I think 4-5 guys in my age group have already posted mid-low 15s for 5K this year but there are very few between that and say 16:50.

    Mileage wise, I do about the same I did through most of my 20s, but months of high mileage are not sustainable so I spend half my year skiing. But yes, can't do the quality. It takes 10 days to recover from a set of hard reps at 3K or 5K, so now it's more tempos, a little speed, and then use the races as the workouts. 

  • #32461


    Good question, especially for me [see my most recent post]. While I've been running competitively since 1973 I've only run 25 of those years. Also, unlike many competitive runners I didn't put in a boat load of miles in my prime. In fact, I never ran over 1000 mpy when I set all of my PB times. Obviously, those are all soft. And only ran 2000 miles for the 1st time in 2005. Since then I've run over that total every year and during 2009-2011 averaged 3500 mpy.
    Most of the runners I know that ran a lot of miles in their prime are no longer putting in high mileage. Most master runners and all of my training partners from 15 years ago are running considerabley less, and for the most part are all are running much slower, whereas my half maathon time is only 4 minutes slower.
    I'm 55 YO and recently retired, so I have the opportunity to run more. Not sure if I'll run more than I have the last three years [I'm only running 50 mpw now] but the body seems to be holding up pretty well if I choose to go that route.

  • #32462


    Most of the runners I know that ran a lot of miles in their prime are no longer putting in high mileage. Most master runners and all of my training partners from 15 years ago are running considerabley less, and for the most part are all are running much slower, whereas my half maathon time is only 4 minutes slower.

    I still believe you just stated the biggest reason people face significant “age related” slowing. For many reasons, from simply not having the motivation to continue at the same level to health factors, whether running-related or otherwise, the training drops off and race results drop off with the training. You seem to be proof of that. For someone who has been running since his pre-teen years to be within 4 minutes of his half marathon PR at age 55 seems astounding but not if one considers what you've offered about your training history here and what I've picked up of it elsewhere.

  • #32463


    For someone who has been running since his pre-teen years to be within 4 minutes of his half marathon PR at age 55 seems astounding but not if one considers what you've offered about your training history here and what I've picked up of it elsewhere.

    There's a compliment in there somewhere. Actually, I'm not within 4 minutes of my half PB, just the best time I ran back in the early-mid 90's. My half PB is soft as I ran 1:27:10 en route to my marathon PB back in '83. I suspect if I'd ever run a half back then it would be sub-1:24. I was floating at that point, and due to my minimal miles was much better prepared for it than the marathon.

  • #32464


    It was meant as a compliment. You've put in the work to maintain if not even gain on some of what you've done in the past. Even to be within 4 minutes of what you've done 2 decades ago is a good testament to the recent work you've been getting in.

  • #32465


    Thanks Ryan.

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