Older Runners: Can You Start Running When Older, In Your 50s, 60s Or Later?

by | 14 Apr 2020 | My running journey, New runners, Older runners

When you were a child you simply ran without thinking. It was effortless fun chasing the ball or being chased by your mates. Then a few years or decades later most of us didn’t run any longer. Sometimes some of us would play some tennis, maybe take a short run to catch a bus or run away from a dog and then gasp for air.

You see other people running but that’s other people and you are in your fifties, running is not for you. Or is it? 

Can you summon up courage and silence your doubts? Can someone first start running when older? And how to even begin to run after 50, 60 or older. Can a middle-aged beginner runner burn some serious rubber? Are older runners doing the right thing for their physical (and mental) health?

I started running at 50 and some change. Here’s my six points explaining why I think that you can too.

How to start running after 50, 60 or later – Rule no 1: Do not let yourself be defeated by doubts

I was 52 when I thought I should work on my cardio, having just quit decades of smoking. Some of the best cardio exercises are swimming, cycling and running. Swimming pools were not really me and I didn’t fancy cycling around London so I was left with the idea or running in the parks (I didn’t like the idea of treadmill running in the gym either).

I had my doubts though. Could I really run after a gap of nearly 40 years? I thought the runners were lean and fit people, and I was not.

And I had no idea on how to start running after 50, what plans I should follow, what things I should avoid, what shoes to wear or even where to run. 

But, I soon realised that my doubts were not based on any solid facts, that I should at least give it a go. And so I chose a great program, Couch to 5K, and got very excited!

Excitement is the right tool to start running when older

All sorts of thoughts started to encourage me… I would get fit, I would wear some cool clothes, I would spend quality time working on my health and well-being, I would be proud of myself one day! Excitement created a drive that boosted my motivation, and my mind was set there and then.

I went and bought some running shoes, some running accessories and clothes and went to the park for the first time. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, what ‘technique’ to use, how slow or fast to run, so I just went……

A bit of grit and belief is needed at times, especially for older runners

Well, the actual running turned out much harder than it was when I was a child, for sure. Back then it was effortless fun but now it seemed a bit more…..laborious.

My early runs were short 60-90 second jogs with walking intervals and I was disappointed to realise how unfit I was.

Still, I could see other people jogging around me, I could see some older people actually running hard and fast, and that gave me more belief than ever. I set my running goal and was determined to be able to run for 30 minutes in a few months! If so many other people can, surely so could I!

Brilliant Couch to 5K program – suitable for all beginners, even novice older runners – was delivering on its promise and week in-week out I could see my targets increasing and body adapting to a newly set regime.

As the runs got longer and the old body more agreeable, it became clear to me that I would make it – and so I did, right on the target! Yay! It wasn’t always plain running in the park, there were days when going was quite tough but it’s the end result that counts.

The answer to how to start running after 50 is the same as starting anything else for the first time, something that is physically and mentally challenging but still in the domain of ‘totally achievable’.

A touch of grit with a spice of belief and all can get there! 

So, what words of wisdom can I share for those of you who are middle-aged or older and thinking about starting to run

Celebrate every tough run

Nothing is easy in the beginning. Running is often full of difficulties and frustrations in the beginning but if you are persistent and give it your best, you can prevail. Remember, you are not training for the Olympic trials, you are in the park working out on your own, trying to run at your own tempo and building up your stamina and cardio.

Early runs can be tough, especially so for older runners – your forgotten muscles are being woken up, you are using something that you last used as a child.

But after a few weeks there will be some eye-opening moments where you will realise that you’ve managed an uninterrupted 3 minute run. Then a 5 minute run. 8 minutes soon after. And you are still in one piece!

people ask me how to start running when older - i started running at 50 and celebrated every small achievement

Photo by Patti Black on Unsplash

It’s important to cheer yourself because you are onto something remarkable after all. Why not celebrate and treat yourself with a little thing, maybe a new running water bottle?

Unforgettable runs can take you to new wins

I had quite a few tough runs in the beginning but I had way more unforgettable good ones. I will never forget the boost of courage and motivation I got when I completed Couch to 5K and managed to run 5 kilometres in under 30 minutes.

As soon as I was able to run 10K without stopping I felt I could go and try a half marathon…..and beyond.

See every win as an amazing and brave achievement and use it to build  and strengthen your faith in your development as a runner!

Never forget the benefits of running in your middle age

Our bodies are amazing human machines, capable of awesome achievements within our individual limits. Running can help push those limits.

After a bumpy start you will realise the potential of your body and changes that you never thought were possible at you age. Your muscles will develop, you will have more energy and ability to do other physical things. If you apply yourself and stay consistent you will get a more toned body and you may notice weight loss after those long runs.

If this all sound too good, that’s because it is!

To summarise – why I started running at 50 plus and why you too should give it a go

Starting running in my fifties was a game changer for me. Physically I feel better and stronger than ever, and to be able to stay on my feet and run for five hours will never seize to amaze me. (In this post I describe my running journey – how I progressed from my first 5K run to my first marathon)

You can become a fitter and healthier person with a clear mind and a whole new world to discover and look forward too.
It doesn’t matter how old someone tells you that you are, and it makes no difference what your body shape and state of fitness can be.

You can start and you can improve anytime, anywhere. Thousands of other older runners are doing just that. Check out my other posts about how to start running and what to look out for when you first start to run, and simply go for it.

Remember, it is never too late to start, and you will always find a good place to run. You CAN start running when older, there is no doubt about that.  Older runners benefit from running just as anyone else. I started running at 50 something (52, to be precise), and even though I did struggle at the start, I also did make a slow and steady progress. And the more progress you make and the more benefits you start to feel from running, the more encouraged you’ll get to keep going and aim for more.

This is not a competition, it is about how to enjoy yourself and experience something that you might have thought was never meant for you. It is, and it can remain so. Have fun and feel fabulous.

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I hope that sharing my story, and what I have learned along this journey, will inspire you to get started and to keep going. To keep striving and being the best you can be. In running and in life.

Be.Your.Best.

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