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Solid Advice for runners over 50 who want to run their first marathon

Even if you’ve been fairly fit your whole life, your 50-year-old self will likely run your first marathon slower than you would have at 30. That’s OK. While it’s all highly individualized, aging can change hormones, metabolism, and other aspects of the body’s physiology that seriously hinder its ability to perform and recover, Jay Bawcom says. All that means is you have to adjust expectations. Another thing you can do to help your case: Pick the right race. Bawcom recommends “a fast course with simple logistics,” such as the California International Marathon. The race has a smaller field, making organization easier, and a fast, net downhill course. Then there’s temperature. “Heat also seems to impact runners more as they get older, and this can make training for early fall races a challenge since it means doing big miles during the peak of summer,” Bawcom says. If you live in a place with harsh summer temps, try a winter race like the Houston Marathon or Surf City Marathon, which would allow you to clock your 20-milers in milder weather.  For an older runner, setting aside 18 to 20 weeks to add more recovery time in between your longer runs and harder workouts.  As an older first-time marathoner, it’s important that your training runs focus on quality miles. To survive the marathon training cycle, work from either end of the spectrum—focus on shorter runs significantly faster than marathon pace and longer runs significantly slower than marathon pace. “Trying to do too many long runs at or close to marathon pace or chasing an arbitrary weekly mileage goal can really beat a person up.” Finally, supplemental workouts like yoga, Pilates, and cycling can really help older athletes.  (Editor's Note: Jay Bawcom has 17 years of coaching experience and was a credentialed coach for the 2012 Olympics.  He has coached dozens of senior runners in the Run SMART Project, an online program that pairs you with a running coach.)  (06/25/2018) ⚡AMP
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