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Am I Too Old to Run Cross-Country?

18 Sep

On Saturday I joined the Eastside Runners Club to compete in the Sundodger XC Invitational at Lincoln Park.  The men’s open race was an 8K (about 5 miles) with a lot of local community college runners.  The whole field went out fast and I threw some elbows to maintain my space and position.  Going through the first mile in 5:30 felt good… better than it should have.

Somewhere around 2.5 miles I stepped on something, or took a misstep, and sprained my ankle.  When it happened, I screamed and stopped, and quickly made the executive decision to drop out of the race.  Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while now might know that this is a recurring theme for me.  I hate it.

The answer to my titular question is, of course, no.  I know many strong XC runners who are decades older than me.  But I think I have to  come to terms with some subtle lessons about what I can sustain as a runner at this point in my life.  Important lessons from this sprain include, but are not limited to:

  • Listen to my body – For over two weeks, I’ve been complaining about foot pain.  It didn’t hurt while running, just while flexing it in particular ways (imagine doing calf raises), so I procrastinated every time I thought to call a PT about it. I’m sure that this was a portent about my more catastrophic injury in the race. I should have taken time off and fixed what was wrong before doing a hard race, particularly one that involved running 5 miles on trails with a crowd of (real) athletes a decade my junior.
  • Eat and sleep right – I’m embarrassed to admit the number of nights I ate a peanut butter sandwhich for dinner last week, and I’ve been staying up late to satisfy an eerie obsession with work. The days leading up to the race I felt sluggish, sickish, and generally broken.  Garbage in, garbage out.
  • If I’m not running, don’t race – I’ve been looking forward to XC for so long, and running this race was pretty important to me.  So when I ran out of time for regular running in the last two-weeks, having trouble fitting in runs of even a couple miles, I did not reconsider my race schedule, and I should have.  That 2.5 mile run the night before the race was not enough to get me back in the game for a hard 5-miler.
  • Take a holistic approach to fitness – I’ve always valued a well-rounded approach to exercise…  in principle.  But when I get busy, I prioritize my activities and make cuts.  Maintenance activities like ankle-strengthening drills are the first things to go (haven’t done them for at least a year).  Stretching, weight lifting, form drills, strides – they’re all gone the moment I get busy.  Usually, the actual running is the part I hold onto the longest.  And when the busy time is over, I don’t add the other activities back in.  So I’m left with a 100% running regimen, which is fun, but not sustainable.  I need to hold myself to not running if I don’t have time for proper warm-up and stretching at the minimum.  Even if it means I run less.
These lessons apply to athletes of any age…  I think I’m just too old, or too busy, to get away with skirting around what’s good for me anymore.

 

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2 Comments

Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Garbage In, Garbage Out, No Easy Days

 

2 responses to “Am I Too Old to Run Cross-Country?

  1. Genevieve

    September 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

    These are excellent points. Neither of us are too old! Lots of people START running at 50! We just have to be smart/consistent about it.

    If I had told you I was going to run that race after a period of not running you would have probably thought it wasn’t the best idea… so if you’re really stuck put me in your shoes and see if you’d encourage me to run. :)

    Now take care of your ankle and at least get some jelly to go with your PB!

     
  2. halfawake

    September 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Thanks @Genevieve :-).

     

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