What it’s like to run ultras in your 50s

I’m not quite sure how being in my 50s is supposed to feel, but I’m pretty sure I’m not feeling it. I still run ultramarathons, love music as much as I always did, and the memory of turning 30 still seems within my grasp.

As much as I might not ‘feel’ it, the reality is that getting older has changed my running.

Speed and strength

I was never fast, but now I really don’t have the same pace I once had, and struggle to maintain real tempo. I’ve also inevitably lost some strength. But it’s not all bad. I’d like to think I’ve become a wiser runner over the years, learning what works best training-wise for me.

Focus and clarity

I’ve always been someone who enjoys setting goals and striving to achieve more, and this hasn’t changed one bit. What has changed, though, is the context in which I set those goals. I now have a much greater sense of clarity on what’s important in life. I’m probably chasing fewer goals – but those I am pursuing are approached with a far deeper focus, appreciation and respect.

So, while I’ve lost some performance from reduced muscular strength, I’m now a more perceptive and focused runner. For instance, in the last 18 months I’ve started to work hard at running with weight. It’s had a huge effect on my overall strength, core, quads and glutes – all round, really. When I first started running – really running, not just keeping fit and jogging – some 12 years ago, I would often end a long run with an aching back, especially when wearing a rucksack. That’s no longer an issue.

I’m playing to my strengths and working on my weaknesses to be a better endurance runner. Part of that is doing short dumbbell sessions at home – 15 minutes, twice a week. I do curls and combine with torso stretching with a kettlebell. It’s something I know I should actually be doing more of.

Enjoyment and for the journey

Another benefit that’s come with age is learning to love running all the more. You can’t really beat getting out on the paths and trails, and running for the sheer joy of it. Running through nature, wherever I am, has given me a huge appreciation for what my body can do, and for life in general.

Running’s been there for me during some big ups and downs over the last 12 years: losing a parent, having two wonderful children, having my own health scare, and now, sadly, helping my mum through an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Runners are no different from anyone else – we’re all dealing with life’s ups and downs everyday in our own ways. However, running has made a big difference to how I deal with whatever happens, and how I let myself feel about things.

XNRG founder Neil Thubron gave me a great piece of advice a couple of years ago:

You might not be able to controls what’s happening around you, but you can control how you want to feel about it, where you are, and what you want to do.

That’s really stuck with me. It’s brilliant advice for anyone struggling to get their head around something. Running, for me, has become one way to control how I want to feel about things, where I am, and what I do.

With age comes gratitude. I enjoy my running so much more now. I’m grateful for life, to have good health and be able to run. I know that, by continuing to run in my middle years, I’m giving myself the tools to be the best possible version of myself in all aspects of my life.

I’d love to know if, like me, you’re someone who came to ultra-running aged 40+. Or, maybe you’re someone who’s just started (whatever your age). Either way, I’d love to swap some tips – leave a comment below or drop me a line on andy@lifeisasinecurve.com

7 thoughts on “What it’s like to run ultras in your 50s

  1. Hi I started running ultras in my 40’s and still running them in my 50’s. Ran across England coast to coast (203 miles ) when i was 50 and Scotland coast to coast (230 miles) when 51 . I love ultras and the challenge to my body and mind. Love to swap tips , ideas and also some of the issues that come up

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  2. Hi, I started running in my late forties, have run mostly 10k’s during my fifties. I’m now in my early sixties and I’ve stared the Ultras, I just enjoy the challenge and the freedom of running/walking trails and mountains.

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  3. I am 61 and running the Jurassic 100 in June, my first ultra and I am so enjoying the training even though it has been gruelling at times.

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