Fifty years. Fifty years and 4 months to be precise. So, what does that mean for a trail runner? ‘Your ability to run a marathon starts to diminish around your fiftieth birthday’, writes science journalist Mariska van Sprundel in her book Running Smart. So I am doomed.
Okay, that sounds hard, but there is more: ‘Most runners will unfortunately start to see a decline in times’, states Claire Maxted in The ultimate trail running handbook. Van Sprundel: ‘The older we get, the poorer our physical performance becomes.’ That’s nice to hear.
Is there hope?
Luckily there is hope. Maxted: ‘The more you stay active and ramp up your strength work, the more muscular strength you will maintain in your fifties. Stay positive – this could be the decade to start running further!’ Van Sprundel: ‘If you have just taken up running in middle age, you can still improve and set personal bests for the marathon even if you were at your best, physically speaking, between the ages of 25 and 34.’
Okay, 34 is a long time ago. 16 years to be precise. That means it was 2007, the year I was preparing to leave the Netherlands for the second time; to travel through New Zealand and Tonga for 9 months. That almost feels like another lifetime. Although New Zealand is the country I started to do yoga, which has helped me to be a runner again.
But let’s get back to the subject. Let’s get back to me being doomed. I admit, it’s going to be hard to break my personal record on the 5 and/or 10 kilometers. If I remember correctly I ran 5 kilometers in 19 minutes and 7 seconds in my first running life. The 10k took me 40 minutes and 8 seconds. The good news is, I am not interested in breaking those records.
See, I believe that running fast is partly what got me injured. The faster you run, the harder you land on your feet, the bigger the impact on your bones, tendons, ligaments and joints. These days I am running slow. I am not running for personal records, I am running for fun. What makes me happy, is being out there, in the forest, in the mountains. I run for the joy of running.
At the same time I am breaking records. Not speed records, but long distance records, altitude records. I ran the Run Forest Run Ommerland Trail a month ago. That race was 44,5 kilometers. For me that meant a new long distance record, because I had never run further than a marathon. Next Saturday I am hoping to break this record by running my first ultra in Sussex.
June 12 last year I ran the 11k at the Dolomiti Extreme Trail. We had to climb 614 meters. That was a new altitude record for me. I broke it 8 days later, during a training run in Sirolo. Running up Mount Conero I set my new record to 814 meters. Two weeks ago I broke that record again, during our trail run trip to Spa. My altitude record now stands at 1.118 meters.
Coming Saturday I hope to break that altitude record again. If I am able to finish the ultra in Sussex I will have climbed 1.600 meters in 53 kilometers. Which means in Sussex I can break 2 records in one day. How cool is that?
So yes, I might not be fast anymore, and I might not be that supple anymore, as Van Sprundel writes: ‘After 50 our muscles and tendons begin to lose their elasticity’, but I can still break records. I am even doomed to break records.