Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean running slower, but when you combine a few more candles on the birthday cake with an enforced break from training, it’s only natural that re-donning your trainers might leave you apprehensive as to what to expect. Can you help this week’s questioner set realistic goals, and suggest how he might train to achieve them?
"I ran my best 10K about 13 years ago, when I was 25, in 43 minutes. I've not done a huge amount of running since then due to work stuff and shin splints, but the last month or so I've felt quite good and done a fair amount of training. I’ve not run a 10K yet but I did a 5K in 23 minutes. I was hoping for better - is there any chance of me beating my PB or am I just too old?" – MikeR
Your best answers
Age is just a state of mind
I'm 39 and still have plans to destroy my current PBs. Here’s a good quote which I believe in “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!” (Henry Ford). It’s totally true, stay positive. If you have any negative thoughts they will just get in the way. – Pammie*
Expect to get out what you put in
You can definitely improve your times even as you get older. I used to do minimal training, stayed well within my comfort zone and my times remained constant (1:45 for a half-marathon and 45-50 minutes for 10K). Eighteen months ago I joined a club, trained properly (speedwork, hills and long runs) and trained outside my comfort zone. At 43 years old I ran a 1:40 half-marathon and WILL beat 40 minutes in a 10K this year. – Wrinkly Smurf
Push yourself outside your comfort zone
I got a 10K PB aged 42, and put this down to three reasons: 1) I incorporated far more interval training and hills into my regime 2) I was absolutely determined to beat a workmate and pushed myself well beyond my comfort zone 3) I'd never really concentrated on 10Ks before. Marathons were the event I trained for; a good 10K time was just not important to me. Now, after a couple of years out of the game I'm planning to beat my PB of 39:49 aged 47. And do you know what? I'm going to do it. – Corinth
Get yourself down to the clubhouse
Just remember the mantra “long run, tempo run and speedwork”, mix in a few easy runs and it will all come together. My number one tip is join a club. As well as the social side, all the experience, help and support available will make it all easier. At 38, my half-marathon time was about 1:42. Now I'm 44, I've run a 1:30 half-marathon and a 2:26 20-miler. – Hamertime
Be prepared to clock up the miles
It all depends on what you did when you ran before (training, eating etc.) as opposed to what you do now. I got a PB aged 44 at the half-marathon (1:23:04), 10K (37:08) and then marathon (2:54) distances. Just after my 45th birthday at the end of last year I did a PB for 10 miles (1:01:34). Basically, I did more training (ie more miles) which worked for me. I do think that age is a factor, but at 38 it shouldn't be such a hindrance for distance running. – Karo
Look at your training history
It depends how hard you trained in your 20s as to whether PBs over 35 are possible. If you did 80 miles a week in your 20s (with speedwork etc.) you have no chance unless you're now doing 100-plus miles a week! Most mortals get into running later so can easily keep improving. I’m a 25-year old who's been in the running game for four years and started incredibly casually, but now that I’m training five times a week I can easily see more training = better times. A local inspiration I use is a guy who did his first half-marathon aged 27 in about 2:15, and now 10 years on is doing 1:13! – Stevie G
More haste, less speed
As everybody else has said, of course you can, but I urge you to be patient and set realistic goals. I started running again last year aged 37 after a 17-year gap, during which I smoked and drank far too much. I trained through the winter and ran my first half-marathon in 1 hour 30 minutes. I then decided to see how fast I could run one if I really tried in my next race a few weeks later. That was back in March and I wrecked my calf and Achilles in the process and haven't run since. I had an operation this week on my Achilles to aid recovery and maybe I'll be running again by September. My point is yes, you can get faster but your body may not put up with the same abuse you gave it in your 20s. So set your goals and then slowly and patiently break them. – Alex Davies 7
Understand you can’t fight time forever
If you've always been a runner there does come a point at which the law of diminishing returns begins to apply, particularly at shorter distances. There's only so much speedwork you can sensibly do. I set my six-mile PB in my mid-20s, and I managed to stay within 15 per cent of that until I passed 40. At that point I realised I wasn't likely to be able to maintain the intensity of training I needed to, given my lifestyle. So I consigned 10Ks to history. I did a similar thing to half-marathons a couple of years ago for similar reasons. Apart from a spectacular exception in my 20s my marathon times remain pretty constant. At 38 you could be setting PBs at 10K for some time to come – just don't expect it to last for ever. – Fell Running
You’ve another decade of peak performances ahead of you...
Given a reasonable amount of consistent training, you can definitely beat that PB. Sub-43 minutes (or even sub-40:00) is very attainable for a runner in his late 30s or early 40s. I started racing and training properly at about 38 and set a 10K PB of 39:27 aged 39 which – although I came very close to it on several occasions – I didn't beat until two years ago, aged 46. I don't expect I'll ever beat that new PB, as it would mean an ever-increasing level of commitment that is beyond me, but at 38 you can still look forward to a good eight to 10 years of peak 10K performances, provided you do the training. – David Jones 39
... at least!
There are plenty of V60s around who run quicker than 43 minutes so there's hope for you yet. You may have to wait 20- 30 years or so though. – Johnny J
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