Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Awaits Over the Hill?

Bruce Springsteen turns 60 in September. Meryl Streep turned 60 in June. Joan Benoit Samuelson is 52. Jamie Lee Curtis is 50. Hilary Clinton is 62. Greg Norman's in his mid-fifties. Dara Torres is 42 (yeah, I know, she's not quite into the "second half", but still...) These athletes, politician and performers do not appear to be slowing down any on account of their age. In fact, some are feisty and forward-moving as ever!

This past Sunday, after completing a ten-mile run, I was talking with two female runners who are also in their fifties. We were discussing running after 50. One said she was running really well in her late-forties into her fifties, but that things have steadily gone down the tubes. My other friend wants to know what the heck is happening to her energy stores and consistency? She feels like she is on a roller coaster - sometimes she begins a run and feels like crap, and then suddenly all is well with the world. Then the negative, doubting self-talk kicks in and it's difficult for her to trust her training.

I am still fairly uninitiated, having entered this new age division less than a year ago. And I feel good. Granted, I don't always sleep well and often have night sweats; I train only at a moderate intensity; I can be moody and down-spirited without any obvious reason; I know I should cross-train and I don't; but mostly I remain confident about my running. In fact, my greatest concern about this issue is not my own ability, rather, it's where is everybody else?

We live in a state that has no shortage of excellent runners. In 1984, during the first ever Women's Olympic Marathon Trials, we had three women running from Maine. They are now all in their fifties. Since then, they and many, many others have been engaged in a high level of local and national competition. But Maine is a small pond and it appears that the landscape is changing. Maybe it's just my old eyes focusing on my old age group.

And this is exactly what disturbs my friend: Are the 50 and over women just not running, and if so, why not? Or if they are, how has it changed? What's it like now as they enter the second half of life? How does menopause affect their training? What do they do about it? Is it all physical, or could it be they think about competition differently and just might not want to do it? What does it feel like to have to slow down? Do we have to slow down?

I bet you can tell I am very interested in having this running conversation with the aforementioned runners and other experts. I'll keep you posted on any program developments and information I gather. Thanks for reading.


Laurel said...

Interesting post Jeanne. I haven't hit the big 5-0 yet, but I'm getting close. I know a lot of fifty and over women ARE still running, but aren't racing any more. Men seem to be able to hold onto the motivation to compete well into their 50's , 60's, and beyond, but many women I know who have been running and competing for decades seem to have mellowed out and now run for other more personal reasons. I think since there seems to be such a difference between the genders, hormones must play a role. There must be a study about this out there somewhere.

Jeanne said...

Thanks, Laurel. It is interesting to think about the relationship between hormones and motivation.
I think one of the benefits of aging is a seasoned "voice" that allows women in particular but also men, to say and do only what they really want to and value. "Screw what anyone else thinks. Now is time for me." Unfortunately, competition is often driven by external motivators.