Reader to Reader: Too old for a PB?

How much does your age limit what you can achieve? Here's what you thought


Posted: 25 June 2007
by Catherine Lee


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

Any questions?
Got a new poser or problem that you want RW members to answer? Spotted a great question on the forum? Email us!

Click here to find out more about Reader to Reader.


Previous article
Heroes of Running 2008
Next article
Ceal Of Approval

wisdom, age, goal
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

I ran my best 10k about 13 years ago in 43m. 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, not run a 10k yet but I did a 5k in 23m. Was hoping for better. Is there any chance of me beating my pb or basically am I just too old???
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 01:20


Yes there is every chance. I am your age and can run one in about 41 mins. Just do the training and watch what you eat.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 01:40

MikeR - I was 40 this year and have PB'd at 10k, half and marathon distance. If there is room to increase training then the PBs will usually follow regardless of age.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 07:34

MikeR

a youngster like you can certainly improve on a modest previous time - just don't leave it too late as it does get harder as time goes by - I know!!:-))
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 07:50

I PB'd a 10k aged 42. I 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 at 47.... and do you know what?

I'm going to do it.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 07:52

Definitely - I reduced my 10K time to 34:58 at 38.

and my 2 mile time to 10:46 and my 5k time to 17:04 again at 38.

It just takes consistant hard work. (and lots of speedwork
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 09:00

Of course you can..I got my 10 mile PB this year ..aged 45.. 1.15.
just got to go for the half marathon under 1.40 next ! now...10k ? well for me not sure ! did 43.30 in late 30s..not gone under 45 mins since passing 40...but with some extra speed work and the right course..maybe !!
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 09:04

No reason why not - you just have to work harder for it than perhaps you did when you were younger!
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 09:07

Of course you can.

I started running at 38, now 43

PB at 10k 45:23 at Easter
Still better to come.

Half marathon PB is 1:49, but I'm aiming for sub 1:45 in October. To quote Corinth's words,
'I'm going to do it!', too.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 09:13

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 6 mile pb in my mid 20's (sorry they didn't have 10k's back then), and I managed to stay within 15% 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, bearing in mind my lifestyle. So I consigned 10k's 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 20's my marathon times remain pretty constant.

So yes at 38 you could be setting PB's at 10K for some time to come - just don't exepect it to last for ever.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 09:29

MikeR - I hope so. I only started running 18 months ago at 38, and have ssen times come down. Hence, I am slightly older than you, but hope to get a new PB at 10K at a race this weekend.

I only need 5 seconds off my time to be officially a sub-40 min 10K runner, as some others have eluded - I will do it.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 09:45

Mike R - never say never! I started running just over a year ago and am now 46 - my times just keep getting better. Regular running is the key to success. Enjoy
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 10:03

There is a chap at my running club who started running at 48 and he can now do 10Ks regularly in 36 mins at age 50!!! It can be done.

I'd say that a few years under your belt is actually helpful for 10K to marathons.

Good luck.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 12:19

Hi guys

I've pinched this question for this week's Reader to Reader, so look forward to reading your training and goal-setting suggestions...

Thanks

Catherine :o)
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 16:27

Yeah should be no problem. Unless you are secretly Seb Coe trying to mount a comeback.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 16:32

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.
JJ
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 16:34

Course you can!

Just remember the mantra, long run, tempo run and speedwork, mix in a few easy runs and it will all come together.

Oh, and my number one tip, join a club, apart from the social side all the available experience, help and support will make it all easier.

At 38 my half marathon time was about 1:42, now I'm 44 I've had a 1:30 half and a 2:26 20 miler.

Enjoy.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 16:39

I did my GNR PB at 38. 2:38 from 2:58. I had nearly 2 years out to have a baby. Then as running time was my time and at a premium I put my all into it. There were no missed runs, I ate better.. but yes I think you can if you put your mind to it.

I cut my 5k time to 32 mins from 35 this year and am hoping to do the GNR in 2.30 which has always been my goal. But at the same time I did the Great Womens run yesterday and when I realised I wasn't going to come in under the hour and I wasn't enjoying my run I decided to relax pace a bit and after that I really enjoyed it. I got to take in some of the coastal beautiful coastal scenery. I came in at 1:11 but I enjoyed the 2nd 5k more than the 1st. So I would say don't get to the point where you are not enjoying your runs or risk injury.

Good luck.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 20:47

I had 20 years out from running started back age 44 8 months ago. 10k 38.30 rhayader 20 2.24. join club go with faster runners train well eat healthy
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 22:15


YES, it is possible!
I did not run for a year due to injury and started again. Within 8 months, I got back to where I was.
Posted: 18/06/2007 at 23:32


There are easier, sure fire ways of doing it. Have a look here for a few tips ;-)
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 00:22


Do2
A PB at 38? I hope so!

I broke my 10 yr old PB for 1/2 mara by 10mins earlier this year, aged 37.

I'm aiming for my 11 yr old mara time later this year (got within 3 1/2 mins at FLM aged 38)

If in the process I manage to better my 10k time (also 11 yrs old) then that would be a bonus, and I think it is possible - if not this year then next.

Also PBd for 10miles and 20 miles this year, but then I'd never raced over either of those distances before - so kind of happened by default!
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 01:59

Of Course you can. I'm 39 (today) and still have plans to destroy my current pbs.

There is a good quote which i believe in
“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!” Henry Ford

Its totally true, be positive. If you have any negative thoughts that will just get in the way
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 03:55


PSC
38 - blimey, still a youngster! It's in the mind - think fast and just go for it!
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 06:28

I certainly hope so, I'm 38 and I hope to PB at least a couple times this year, as mentioned above think positive!
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 07:14

Age is but a number.

People who say you can't always provide me with a good motivation to prove you can.

PB @37 10k 39m45s
PB @37 1/2 M 1h30m



Posted: 19/06/2007 at 14:25


Do2
Pammie - have you just visited my website?

That very quote appears as the thought for the month - spooky!!
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 15:52

Yes of course you can you daft sod.

Just shuddup an train, bitch!
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 16:23

Absolutely. Ive PBd this year aged 48 at half marathon and last year over the full marathon distance. I also have run my 2nd and 3rd fastest 10ks over the past 12 months.
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 18:48

Hope so as I'm 39 and trying to aim for pbs.

Realised that I now need two days recovery between fartlek sessions.

'Age is only a number'. I think it was the Ethiopian distance runner Yifter that said that.

Not sure if he even knew his proper age !
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 18:55

Of course you can with the right training, recovery and attitude of mind.
Posted: 19/06/2007 at 21:01

I'm nearly 39, been running for a few years and regularly PB'g, and hoping to to carry on doing so for a good few years. Paul Evans did his best marathon times in his forties, and I'm sure there are loads of others like him.


Posted: 20/06/2007 at 09:19

Agree with ceal and the other comments on here. But if you want examples, ran a race with a 40 year old recently who had just PB on his 102nd half marathon.

Myself: In my 20's ran around 8 HM's, best time 1:29:30. Took-up running again when 38, never thought I'd break 90 mins again, I did withi 6 months, enthused me to train properly and last hm in March 07 run as a 42 year old 1:17.
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 11:22

I didn't add that I am 67 yrs next week. didn't start running until 61 yrs, but am still doing pb's. 5k time 22.46 is an example. so if I can you can. Or anybody else can:-))

OuchOuch
that is a great time for a half, keep it going.
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 11:52

Ouch Ouch
<thud!>

Fantastic stuff. Congratulations.
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 12:07

Ceal, I only read about you yesterday and you've inspired me so much. I've been running a few years, did my first mara last year at 3:58, followed by 3:41 Abingdon then 3:38 at FLM in the baking heat. I'd love a 3:30 by the end of the year and in a couple of years, only a dream, but I'd love to get sub 3:15 and toe the line just once at FLM women's elite. Reading about you made me think it may just be possible....

Good luck to everyone in their continuing PB quests.....
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 12:19

First of all enjoy your running and the PBs will come,

I started running age 42 and did a PB for 10k at age 55 36-52.

keep going man and good look.
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 12:23

Hi Mike.

Given a reasonable amount of consistent training,you can definitely beat that PB.

Sub-43 mins (or even sub-40)is very attainable for a runner in his late 30's/early 40's.Using myself as an example,I started racing and training properly at about 38 and set a 10k PB of 39'27"at 39 which,although I came very close to it on several occassions,I didn't beat until 2 years ago when I was 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 8-10 years of peak 10K performances-provided you do the training.
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 12:40

Mike,
It all depends on what you did when you ran before (ie training, eating) and your general health as oppossed to what you do now. I PB'd aged 44 in half marathon (83:04) 10k (37:08) and then marathon 2:54. Just after my 45th birthday at the end of last year I did a PB for 10 miles (61:34). Basically, I did more training (ie miles) which worked for me. I do think that age is a factor though; however at 38 it shouldn't be such a hindrance for distance running.
Good luck
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 13:04

Returned to running age 37 after 20 years and too many ciggies. Managed p.b on 10K @ 42'18" and 1/2M @94'16" both faster than in my first running life, though am waiting to beat my best ever 10M of 69' @ age 16.
Am presently laid up with a bad leg through over doing it this winter, so my advice is to train steadiily and don't get too carried away.
Posted: 20/06/2007 at 13:44

See more comments...
We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.