Monday, September 19, 2022

A Runner Looks At 60

Where did my 50s go? It feels like I just agonized over this, but here I am, on the cusp of another decade. These milestone birthdays do get more painful. I'm just going to say it: turning 60 is messing with my head. I've never felt my age and I don't now, but over the past couple of years, I've noticed a change in how others see me. When I look in the mirror, I don't always recognize the old person looking back at me. I don't see myself as old and when people comment that I 'look good for my age' or some other similar statement, it always makes me pause. As do comments like "are you still doing that (running)?

It's as if I've crossed into some taboo territory where women of a certain age are supposed to disappear. If I was a man, would people say things like this to me? Will women ever overcome the stigma of aging? 


As a woman who has been active her entire adult life, I find myself in a strange place where I have very few peers who are as active as me. Through the years, my age group has gotten smaller. The majority of women who are runners are much younger than me. At Run Happy Camp this past summer, I noticed that there were very few runners over 50. I don't think that's the fault of Brooks, but that it is a reflection on who is participating in the sport. 

I understand why fewer women participate in sports, especially running, as they age. Long distance running is tough at any age, but as I've gotten older, I've had to modify my training so that I can still participate in long distance events. Most training plans don't take into consideration a runner's age. There's no way I can train like I did in my 30s. I need more rest days and I need more cross-training--including strength training. We just can't train and run all the miles the way we did when we were younger. Yet, women like Joan Benoit Samuelson and Kathryn Switzer as well as many of my running peers are still in amazing shape and killing it. It's really inspiring. Thank goodness!

Ageism is pervasive in our society. It fascinates me how brands gravitate towards younger influencers, even though we 'older' consumers have the disposable income to spend. I was actually shocked when I was selected to join the Brooks RHT. Maybe they have no idea how old I really am. Or maybe they don't care, which would be the better option. 

Regardless, I'm still working on my life goal, which is to run until the day that I die. I've run all the races I wanted to run except Boston and I've made peace with that. I don't have anything to prove anymore, except that I don't want anyone to count me out! I'm staring down a new age group. I want to continue to run trails. The slower pace and softer surfaces are much easier on my body, but I'm not ruling out road races either. Most importantly, I want to have fun with running and I'm exploring more activities like the run tour I did with Erica this summer--where I can do that.

I also want to influence other women that they don't have to give up an activity they love just because they are getting older.  Thanks to people like Stacy Sims and Selene Yager, more women are beginning to realize this. This short but impactful video showcases older women who are pushing their limits. Maybe brands will follow. Maybe people will finally get it. You never know!

So happy birthday to me! I hope you all will support me as I continue to push my limits and enjoy the sport that has brought so much joy into my life. Don't worry, I'm not planning to do anything crazy--well, there are those rope climbs...but I'm sure not ready for that rocking chair!


How do you approach a big birthday? Are you afraid of getting older? What are your goals as you age?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics, with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJen, and Lisa.

33 comments :

  1. A great post, Wendy!
    Congrats on reaching 60 in a fabulous shape! I love your life goal, ha!
    I'm 54, so still a bit to go to 60. It's great to have role models like you around who demonstrate what's possible.
    Thanks also for the link to the video. Our demographic is growing - at some point we'll hopefully also become more interesting to the marketing departments.
    Cheers to the next decade!

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    1. You're a great role model for all of us! It's amazing what you can do. Let's keep each other going!

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  2. Happy Birthday! I don't see myself as old either; I certainly don't feel it. Although, I recently had a bartender call me Ma'am. I almost told him about the 9-mile run I'd done a few hours prior....almost.

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    1. Yeah...don't do that, lol!!! You'll get the 'my mom runs' comments....

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  3. Happy Birthday, Wendy! I so hear you on this post as I turned 60 this April and have felt it mentally and unfortunately physically too. I had a running goal to do another half this November to show folks that you can still run that distance at 60 and to celebrate turning 60 for myself. But arthritis in my knees have kicked my ass this year, making it hard to run longer distances at the moment. But I am trying to reframe it all and re-set different goals as I work with a new Ortho doctor. My life goal is to continue to run as long as I can too so that is how I am trying to accept my limits this year. I have rarely minded the aging process but it has been odd to feel that I am not "seen" as much. Well, we will just keep showing up for ourselves and to hell with the rest. And maybe inspire someone else to keep trying? You inspire me so thank you.

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    1. Yep, feeling it too. I have a half in October, deferred from last year when I broke my ankle and foot. Will it be my last half? I'm starting to think so. But you never know. We got this!

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  4. Happy birthday, Wendy!
    You are an inspiration! I'll be 60 in about 18 months and have no plans to stop running, cycling, or enjoying life. I remember when 40 was "over the hill" and now I think about how young that is. I did have someone say, "at your age you can get away with that" the other day. I took it as a compliment. My dad's mom was still walking 2 miles a day at 80, so I don't really fear getting older. And I totally agree about running trails - my body is much happier on the dirt.

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    1. I really think trails are going to be my go-to coming up! Looking forward to following you through our 60s!

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  5. Happy Birthday!! As you may know I hit the big 70 in May.

    No I don't feel old. I feel younger than when I was 50.

    I do hate when someone says "You don't look that old" What does that mean??

    We do have a lot of older runners around here. I think it's often the brands that look toward younger runners. I rarely get picked as an ambassador. Any gray-haired Brooks ambassadors at the retreat?

    I also don't like when people say "You're still....?" Do we stop certain things based on our age? I work because I can. I run because I can.

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    1. There actually was a gray-haired runner at Brooks RHC--a Canadian woman who was looking very fit!

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    2. glad to hear that. Many older women are fitter than younger ones.

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  6. Happy Birthday to you! Lovely post, very thoughtful. I'm 71 and will turn 72 in a few months, and I do notice a substantial difference in my activity level. I can't do yard work for hours on hours like I used to. I need to take breaks when I mow the yard. I'm less flexible when I do yoga. I'm not walking as far as I used to; but I'm also not ready for a rockin chair. We just make adjustments and think perhaps a bit more about whether or not to do something that might result in an injury. And brands do indeed showcase the young and beautiful which is frustrating.
    Sandy's Space

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    1. I definitely need to take an afternoon break, which is something I've started doing the past couple of years. I guess I don't mind that too much!

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  7. I don't see myself as old and in many ways I think I look a lot better than I did in my 30's. I do see myself getting older though and try to fight it sometimes. You are right about training plans not taking age into consideration and prof runners in their 40's are more of an anomaly than the norm. I do think Brooks appreciates us older runners and I hope that we inspire others to continue to chase their dreams as they age. happy birthday!!

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    1. Thank you my friend and I was so glad to have you at RHC with me! I am in the best shape of my life and now the goal is to maintain it. We're going to do this together!

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  8. Great post Wendy! You continue to inspire me! I don't see myself as old either. I'm learning to make adjustments but have no plans of stopping any time soon. Like you, I want to keep running and working out until I literally can't any more. Cheers to you my friend! Wishing you a very happy birthday and years of running to come!

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    1. Thank you so much Michelle! We got this and we have to keep pushing each other!

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  9. I feel you. I turned 46 yesterday and feel like people think my age and slight stature mean I am weak. I have a 5-year-old that insists on being carried and/or piling on me and promise that's not the case.

    My granny turns 96 next week. I told my son she would be old and old (our family chides each other on birthdays) and she replied "trying to be." Well, she looks amazing. I think we should all remember that we should strive to have the wisdom and experience of growing older. It is a gift not everyone is granted. Blessings to you on your special day.

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    1. Thank you so much! I know how lucky I am. I wish the world would get on board!

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  10. Happy Birthday! I would have never guessed that you are turning 60. I'll be 40 next year and while it's weird to be entering a new decade I feel like I'm ready for it. It's inspiring to see women who are older than me continuing to run and it has given me hope that I will have many more years of running too!

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    1. My best running came in my 40s and 50s and i am so grateful for that. I think it was all about feeling comfortable in my skin and confident to begin crushing goals. I am so glad that I did that!

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  11. Turning 60 was tough for me. And then, I just went on. Those birthdays approach and they just make me feel like "how did I get here so quickly?" And part of the challenge is that I don't feel any different. Yeah, I'm slower and a little achier sometimes but my mind, my outlook is much the same as it always was. Even wiser.

    Getting slower is one of the hard things for us competitive girls. Improving seems to be more work but our bodies resist that. The strength training is so key. I think it's the difference between keeping on and having to give it up.

    And I actually do think older men get the same treatment in this area. My husband, who is 74, is always looked upon with amazement when people find out he's still competing. And he got that even in his 60s. It's important to stay around positive people who know that age is mostly just a number. That we're strong and vital at any age.

    Happy Birthday!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Debbie! You nailed it with your reply. I don't feel much different, just kind of easing into a different kind of running. I'm so glad to have you in my life. Thank goodness for our running peers!

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  12. Happy Birthday, Wendy! You are a strong runner and athlete and no matter the age, you are a lot more fit than a large number of younger people 😀
    As I age, I choose to focus on the "experience and knowledge I have gained" part, not on the "number of years" part.


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    1. It's really interesting to have this perspective of being a wiser, older person. But no matter how you look at it, ageism is an issue. I just have to learn to smile and nod, lol

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  13. Wishing you a very happy birthday Wendy! I consider you to be a badass runner and I know that will only continue as you enter this new decade.

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    1. Thanks Kim! I'm grateful that my body lets me still push it so hard!

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  14. Happy Birthday!!! (when is your actual birthday, by the way?) Age is just a number- but yes, a lot of people don't see it that way. It's funny, I've had so many injuries and aches and pains lately, and I suppose people might put it down to aging- but I don't see it that way. It takes a little more work but you just have to figure out how to keep moving and doing what you love. Running until the day we die is the goal!

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    1. Haha, my birthday is today! I agree with you that the aches and pains may or may not be attributable to aging, but I've definitely learned to give myself grace and modify my training. And yes, it does take time!

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  15. Happy happy birthday! I am so proud of all you continue to accomplish. I was raised in a family that took age seriously. Women of a certain age (like 40...) were "old" and might as well just go lay down and rot somewhere. I am flipping the script as best I can.

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    1. That's the goal here as well! May as well enjoy our days on earth, am I right?

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  16. Happy Happy Little W - Fantastic Post And Well Said - I Am A Young Pup And Haven't Dreaded A Milestone Yet - Ask Me When I Turn 70 - Wait, You'll Be 80 Then - Sending All The Love I Can Your Way - I Am Proud Of You - I Admire You - And You Have And Will Continue To Accomplish So Much - Keep Leading With Your Heart My Friend

    Big Birthday Hugs
    Cheers

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    1. Thank you so much Travis! My mom and I were talking about this and I commented that when she turns 100, I'll be 80. We could not stop laughing. it's so absurd! Just rolling on...

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