Next year I will mark a milestone: my fifth decade of running every other day, or at least three times a week.
In that time I’ve entered eight marathons, finishing six of them, including Boston in 2012. I didn’t try my fourth until well into my 50s.
In those years, my pace has slowed some. I have taken to heart that I will never post a better marathon PR than 3:33:08 (which I managed in Scranton, Pa., when I was 55 years old).
Still, the other day I ran four miles and felt like I was in my thirties. I didn’t run the route as fast as I did in those days, but my body felt as good. Or at least that is what my brain was telling me.
If there is a secret to any of this, a lot of it comes down to being sensible about pace setting. The “setting” of your body as you run.
That means working on your running posture. You are not going to change the way you run. That’s bred in the bone. But look around you and you’ll see what I mean.
Most casual runners of all ages will lean forward and run out in front of their hip fulcrum. In so doing, with each footfall, the force of the stride falls disproportionately on the knee joint, and isn’t shared by the lower leg and ankle in the way that allows for optimum power efficiency. After years of running in this way, injury often results.
What to do? Last year at this time my knee blew out because of those years of pounding. My pace “setting” was off all that time. For months in physical therapy I worked strenuously to correct that imbalance by doing lunges and squats to strengthen the knees – and equally important – the butt and lower leg.
For example, doing the squat and lunge appropriately (watch as people do them and often the case they are cheating the exercise and thus the good it can do) builds butt muscle as well as the knee and lower leg. But keeping the weight behind the knee as you do the full lunge and full squat, you are not overstraining the knee as you exercise. Rather you are training the body to distribute the weight of your body – and the pounding as you run – more evenly with each exercise lunge or each training stride.
Okay, that’s the Rime of the Ancient Marathoner lesson for the day. Next up and soon! is the plan for my next half-marathon. With my No. 9 marathon a realistic goal in the not too distant future.