Sixties Stride

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you don’t stop.” – ConfuciusPacific Crest Trail to Kendall Katwalk

In forty-some years of running, I still haven’t figured out the formula for a good run. I’ve had lousy runs after a restful night and a ten-hour sleep, and kick-ass runs after I’d been out until the wee hours misbehaving with my buddies. There are days I have to force myself out the door after working my butt off, only to have a strong, vibrant run; other times I can’t wait to hit the trail only to slug along like I had cinder blocks in my pockets. I’ve concluded there is no full-proof formula for a good run.

My best running years were at a time of my life when my buddies thought a round of golf riding in a cart with a case of beer in the back was a workout. My fiftieth year I qualified for Boston and won my first two running awards, ever. As I proceeded into my fifties I increased my cycling mileage and did my first triathlon. But when I hit fifty-nine I sustained the worst running injury of my life in a knuckle-headed move running on the ice that led to a four-month rehab for an inflamed hip.

These days I run for the sheer joy of running. Lofty goals like qualifying for Boston have been replaced by thankfulness to finish an 18-mile trail run through the mountains–I mean, how freakin’ fortunate am I?! So this year I am taking on a new challenge–finding my stride at sixty.

C&O - Canal PathRecently, I had a revelation, and now am reconsidering that formula I said didn’t exist. Last October my buddy Ed and I cycled 300+ miles from Pittsburgh to Washington DC on the Greater Alleghany Passage and the C&O Canal towing nearly 100 pounds in camping gear, food, water, etc., and then in November I shaved 40 minutes off my previous-year marathon. This past weekend Ed and I took a two-day hike on the Appalachian Trail lugging 35-pound backpacks over arguably the trail’s rockiest stretch, and the day after we returned I ran the strongest 10K I’d run all year.

AT - Top of the RockSo I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, the most effective way for me to find my stride at sixty is to exert myself in leisure activities like hiking and tour cycling rather than a traditional marathon training program. I’ll test the theory at the Steamtown Marathon on October 12th in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After the hip injury and rehab, I didn’t expect to run a marathon this year, but now I’m excited. My goal is to finish, but who knows what will unfold during those 26.2 miles?

And with that, I’ll end with another Confucius saying, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

 

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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20 Responses to Sixties Stride

  1. LB says:

    It’s so great that you have a buddy to adventure with. Love the photos!
    I’ll raise a glass of wine to you on the 12th. Yep … you’ll be running a marathon and I’ll be touring a winery. You are definitely healthier, but I think we’re both having fun!
    Good luck in the Steamtown Marathon.

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  2. shawnasob says:

    At 33 I’m in my second year of running and to read what you have done and continue to do is truly an inspiration. When I started out running my main objective was to keep on running for as long as I am capable. Thanks for showing that it is possible!

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Shawn. Running is lifelong venture and you have to adapt, take what your body will give you. I never dreamed my best running years would come when I hit fifty. Next week I’ll run the Steamtown Marathon with my son’s buddy (ironically his name is Shawn too) I ran Steamtown with him ten years ago when I qualified for Boston, and I beat him. Next week he will probably be eating his third bagel at the finish line by the time I’m done, but that’s okay. Now is his time. I’ve slowed considerably in the past ten years, but I’m enjoying every step of the way and look forward to running a marathon when I hit seventy. A piece of advice I share with all young runners is to cross-train, mix it up, find other cardio exercises that satisfy your need to exert yourself, that way your legs will remain fresher longer. Happy running, my friend.

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  3. WalkToRio says:

    Nice post!
    The biking helped me to sort of stay in shape the past 2 moths when I was dealing with an injury (shins). I learned to like biking, I had a bike but rarely used it until I was forced too. The plan to use that bike for my cross training, never happened till the injury. Now I enjoy riding along the river and seeing the villages around the city which I would never see if it wasn’t biking.
    Good luck on your marathon.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Same here, I began cycling to rehab after my first knee surgery, and got more serious after my second and third. I now believe cross-training strengthen the entire body instead of pounding your legs day after day. And it’s more important with age. Plus, as you mention it’s a great way to tour. Be well, my friend, and thanks for dropping by.

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  4. Sophie33 says:

    A very cool post, dear Jim! Breathtaking pictures too! 🙂 And passion, passion, passion about running!

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  5. Great post, Jim! I’m also pondering the same kind of questions…
    As leisure time athletes, enjoyment is the most important factor for us (I’m speaking for myself), which means that Confucius is spot on!
    Good luck to you and happy running, cycling, hiking etc…

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      “Wheresoever you go, go with all of your heart.” Who can argue with that? And good luck to you with your running, cycling and cross-country skiing, which by the way is one of the most physically grueling sports imaginable. I read with interest your post on training at altitude. I spent time in Colorado years ago and the adjustments you mentioned are real and to be taken seriously. I ran the Run the Rockies half-marathon and felt like I had cinder blocks in my thighs. I loosened up after the first few miles and somehow, maybe divine intervention, I placed third in my age group. (yes, there were more than three runners.) Be well, and never stop.
      jim

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  6. OmniRunner says:

    My experience has been similar.
    It may be that your other activities serve as cross training. This may be strengthening muscles that normally do not get as much attention.
    As long as you are healthy, keep pushing!
    Cheers – Andy

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      I’m with you, Andy. As long as you keep moving you are on the right track.
      Jim

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    • runner500 says:

      I agree with you Omnirunner about the other activity serving as cross training, last autumn I had a city break walking around Madrid and Toledo and didn’t run at all, but raced when I got back and did much better than expected. Good luck at Steamtown Jim.

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      • Jim Brennan says:

        Thanks, My Man. And I’ve had the same experience as you after taking time off the beaten trail. Conversely, when I was a novice marathoner I would over-train and always wind up with some nagging injury. It took many years to figure out the best routine for my body, and now, at sixty, it’s varying my physical activity, what runners and trainers call cross-training. Hiking, cycling, yoga, or just plain hard labor, seem to be my best training program. Good luck, my friend.
        jim

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  7. Mark Mangan says:

    Great post Jim! You continue to inspire me. I’m thinking about doing the Crusader Classic 5K (it would be my first organized run) but I need to see how I run this week. I was going to ask you about tips but your post says it all.
    Mark

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      My advice, Mark, is to register. You’ll be glad you did. Guaranteed! Don’t give yourself time to back out. I met a guy at a reading over the weekend who talked me into registering for an ultra-marathon. It will be my first. You register for Crusader Classic, I’ll register for the ultra. Deal? See you there.
      Jim

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  8. Best of luck to you at Steamtown!!

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