On staying in the race

In December I listened to a terrific Trail Runner Nation podcast interview with Jonathan Beverly, author of the new(ish) book, Run Strong, Stay Hungry (Velo Press, 2017). It piqued my interest enough to request an examination copy that I could read in order to share a mini-review with you; many thanks to Velo Press for providing it! For this book, Beverly interviewed 51 masters-age “lifetime runners” (all but two over the age of 50; very short biographies of each runner are included at the end of the book) – including luminaries like Deena Kastor, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Kathrine Switzer, Bill Rogers, Benji Durden, Amby Burfoot – to figure out what keeps them running when so many others who were competitive runners in young adulthood eventually leave the sport behind. From those many interviews, Beverly extracted 9 “keys” to physical and psychological longevity in running. Here’s a sample of his recommendations:

  • Consistency: run often, even if you don’t run long. Building a regular habit is not just good for the body; it’s good for the brain! Habit makes it harder to talk yourself out of working out.
  • Variety: mix up your workouts so that you aren’t running the same distance and pace every single day. Alternate long and short runs, fast and slow runs. This creates better conditioning AND reduces the likelihood of injury.
  • Train by “feel” instead of by gadgets. Plan and evaluate your workouts based on perceived effort, not on your GPS watch and heart rate monitor. “…(T)hose who keep going at a high level, such as (Joan) Benoit Samuelson, train more by feel than by plan and consider it an important element in their success and longevity” (p. 82).
  • Be adaptable: recognize that your 55-year old self is not your 25-year old self, and adjust your goals to do your best today. (This one reminds me of that great Sara Lavender Smith quote I shared a couple months ago, on making peace with your “old” self.) Consider racing fewer events so that you can optimize your training and recovery.

There is a lot of practical training advice throughout the book, but Beverly says that ultimately, the source for longevity in running is joy: “More than any training detail or trick to make yourself stay disciplined, finding enjoyment in running itself is the key to staying in the sport and staying competitive” (p. 225). This is a good and inspirational read. The first 15 pages are devoted to the author’s own running history and resume – a section that began to feel a little longer than necessary; but it shows us what drove him to this very enlightening project, so the indulgence is forgiven. Find the book at your library or your local indie bookstore.

(Hey, Julie Isphording – who competed in the first women’s Olympic marathon [1984] – would  have made a good interview for this book, too!)

Now speaking of making adaptations for longevity… Here’s another great discussion of chi running with Danny Dreyer. I swear on a stack of training logs, I have no incentive to promote chi running the way I do… though I wouldn’t turn one down. 😉 Hey, Danny/ChiRunning.com, my readers might really dig a discount code for your books or apps or DVDs!

Jonathan Beverly’s book is all about runners who started young and keep going well into middle age and seniority. Here’s a great feature about the marvelous Ida Keeling, who started running at age 67 and is still competing at 102!

 

Do we need another incentive to keep moving? In a study recently published in the journal Cell, active seniors were shown to have immune systems equivalent to a 20-year old’s. Seriously.

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