It stands to reason that, as you get older, fitness and running ability will eventually plateau and then get worse. I think I’m there now. Not that I’ve got a lot to compare with – all the races I had entered this year have been cancelled or postponed so far.
I have been a runner for my entire adult life. But in the early days I only ran a couple of miles a day. Right until I had kids, I ran most mornings. When the kids were small, I would only run once a twice a week – and still only a couple of miles at a time.
Having run my first half marathon in 1995 and my second in 1996, I didn’t run another until 2011 – when I scraped in at six seconds below two hours. After that, I ran a half marathon or two most years and gradually improved. But for the rest of the year, I was averaging probably three runs of four miles a week.
In 2015, parkrun came into my life. And it was, and still is, a truly wonderful thing. I loved getting out every Saturday morning and running as fast as I could. My family felt the same way. For a few glorious weeks in 2017, I got PB after PB. And then I hit my limit at 22:23. I’ve only managed to run below 23 minutes a couple of times since 2017. So, when it comes to parkrun, I’ve been getting worse for three years now.
From 2017 onwards, I embraced running more half marathons, and always doing a long run on a Sunday. My overall weekly and monthly distances increased and I felt fitter and stronger.
I ran a half marathon PB at Stroud in 2017, followed by another in my next race – Tewkesbury half marathon 2018 and another in the race after that – Cheltenham half marathon 2018. I’ve had my PB of 1:48:10 since then and I really don’t think I will ever beat it. Because I’m getting older and I’ve plateaued.
Although I’m getting older and slower, I did still managed to run my first marathon last year and was well into training for my second marathon, until it got postponed/ cancelled. I am confident that I can get a marathon PB next year, having comfortably done an 18 mile training run at 9:30 pace this year.
Maybe if I’d run seriously all through my 20s and 30s, I would have plateaued earlier. I was getting better in my 40s because I was running more and getting fitter and stronger. But at some point, nature has to take over and sadly I think it has.
I’m still doing our family non-parkrun parkruns at below an eight minute mile pace, but my longer runs are usually closer to a nine minute mile, whereas they used to be between 8:30 and 8:45. Maybe when I have a race to train for I will be able to speed up? It would be nice to still achieve a pace of less than 8:30 with the adrenaline of a half marathon, but who knows?
Annoyingly, my husband hasn’t plateaued. Far from it. He is getting faster and faster. I used to be faster than him on parkrun, but he has got a lot of PBs since then and got a new PB of 20:31 last year.
My husband hasn’t been running his entire adult life like I have. He started with the two half marathons in the 1990s, the same as me. He actually ran four of five half marathons without me between 2008 and 2010, but then he took a break and I ran several without him. When he trained for his half marathons, he would literally run once or twice a week. So he wasn’t as fast or as strong as he could have been.
Even in more recent years, he mainly trained for half marathons by doing parkrun plus a long run on Sunday. He wasn’t building up his all-round fitness and strength like I was. In 2017, I beat him by a long way at Cheltenham half marathon and he has been determined ever since that it wouldn’t happen again! (Although it did happen at Stroud in 2018 too.)
In recent months, he has finally got into the habit of midweek runs. Of course lockdown has been brilliant for him. Without having to do any travelling for work, he’s had more time on his hands, so has been running six times a week. And he’s getting fast! He’s doing our usual midweek run (which is 4.4 miles) at a pace of around 7:45/ mile. We always run together on a Sunday morning and I feel like I’m forever struggling to keep up with him.
So at an age when he ‘should’ be plateauing and getting worse, he’s actually getting better.
But the good thing for me is that I’m still running, still fit and still strong. It really doesn’t matter if I’m getting slightly slower at the age of 46.