I always thought that running is only for the young. Anyone above 40? Don’t even think about it … or so I thought. Indeed, when I first started running with Bombay Running, I could only see a bunch of speedsters and youngsters in the crew. But slowly, we were joined by many others who wanted to start running in their 40s and 50s. Most of them started with the simple run and walk method. Today, they are faster than me. According to scientists, who study the effect of physical exertion on longevity, you can expect to receive two hours of life extension from every hour spent exercising. If exercise were a medication, experts believe that it would be the most heavily prescribed in the history of medicine.
But doesn't running cause long-term joint damage and other injuries especially for middle-aged runners?
Olympian Jeff Galloway has worked with tens of thousands of runners in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. By using his run-walk-run method, most are able to enjoy running with fewer aches and pain. At the age of 60, Jeff has reported no injuries in 27 years.
In his book,
Running until you are 100, he says, “Running is one of the few recreational activities that can often be enjoyed into advanced ages. It is obvious to me that while we need to be more conservative as the years go by, we benefit from, and are penalized by, the same principles of training that apply to 20-year-olds.”
Age-appropriate training allows you to enjoy running more while reducing aches and pains.
I interviewed six regular runners who started running in their 40s and 50s and have never looked backed. Here is their accounts:Christine Saldanha, 56, who works at Castrol, started running only 10 years ago.
"I did my first half-marathon at the age of 46 and have not stopped since then. I love to run as it keeps me fit and apart from that, running has given me such lovely friends. In the running world, unlike the corporate world, people never pull me down; they only encourage me. I feel so energised after my morning runs,” Saldanha said.
Saldanha, who is associated with a number of NGOs, regularly runs with Bombay Running and Mumbai Road Runners. She has successfully completed the 10x10 challenge with Bombay Running, the 7-island run with Mumbai Road Runners apart from several half marathons. She is currently training for the Alpha trail run and plans to cover various other outstation marathons.
We love her indefatigable spirit and ability to easily make new friends. Sometimes it is difficult for the 20-year-old to match her energy and vibrancy.
CA Rakesh Nanda, 56, is a chartered accountant based in Mumbai. He was detected with sleep Apnoea a few years ago. He decided it was better to run than be hooked on to a machine forever.
Nanda began running 2-3 km in 2017 with Bombay Running Crew and within 6 months, completed a 50-km marathon in Coorg. “Nanda’s doctors tell him that he is as fit as a 35-year-old. He has participated in several international marathons including Chicago, Bali, Vancouver, Singapore, Scotland, and Cancun, to name a few.
Running has helped me with my divorce and kept me positive all throughout. Even after the divorce I have a very good relation with my ex-wife because of the positivity inside me. Every one told me your knees will get damaged and tried to dissuade me from Running. I haven’t had knee related injury despite covering a 50 km mileage per week,” he says. When asked what motivates him to run such long distances, Nanda says, “Keep running and the body shall look after itself. It's a wonderful machine that keeps getting stronger and stronger with every kilometre you run. Not many have discovered this secret which I am sharing with you, and I have seen a change within me in such a short time ever since I took up running”.
Anuradha Dutt, 47, is an educationist and currently working with children of special needs. Dutt was motivated by her husband and children in Bhopal to take up running at the age of 39 as a means to lose weight. She participated in her first half marathon in Delhi that year.
When asked how running helps her, she says, “Running enhances my mood and gives me clarity in my thoughts. I can solve my work and family-related issues while running. I am trying hard that my children take up running as well as it is important for their mental health.”
Dutta says she is a solo runner and wake sup at 4 am for her run. She completely endorses something she read long back “You never regret a run in your life, good runs give happiness, bad runs give experience, worst runs give lessons and best runs give memories”.
S Mahadevan, 61, is a financial advisor. He participated in a 10km marathon back in 2016 after his daughter pushed him to sign up for one. He was happy to complete the marathon but soon realised that he needs to build up strength and improve his nutrition if he wants to run injury free.
Mahadevan did that through regular workouts as he had only been a regular walker. His family motivated him to consult a nutritionist to improve his eating habits which was in turn adapted by everyone in his family. He wanted to take up serious running after this and soon joined the Bombay Running Crew. After three months of serious training, he ran his fastest 10 km in 58 minutes at TCS World 10k in Bangalore this year.
When asked upon what keeps you going, Mahadevan says, “The
running bug has truly bit me and hopefully it will keep me going for my lifetime. A few months back, I would have never imagined waking up at 4.30 am and running at different locations, but now it has become a routine and I am enjoying it. I would also push myself to not only run faster in the shorter format but also improve my running distance. What more you need to keep one going?’’
He is often accompanied by his two daughters for the runs who are nothing but proud of their fit father.
Priyanca Walanju, 40, a professor of design, started her running journey in 2015. She long ran alone until she came to know about Bombay Running Crew.
As a trained classical dancer, when she initially started, running would get overwhelming. The entire process seemed like an ordeal, according to her.
Eventually she learnt to balance it off with corrective running forms, which helped her not just in her craft but also helped her follow a disciplined lifestyle.
Getting up at odd hours for a run may seem crazy to non-runners, she says, but for her running is a therapy. “
I realised how therapeutic running could be in terms of grit, focus and diligence which helps me address mundane challenges. No sooner I was absorbed into a holistic cycle which had a positive effect on me.”
says there are days when she is unable to run a mile and then there have been times when she crossed the 42km mark. “I never judge myself on such situations, but what holds my pulse on it is the adrenaline rush after every run irrespective of the distance covered, that for me is light at the end of a tunnel.”
On asked if she has suffered from any injuries, she says, “
People often inquire about my knees given the misconception they have around running to which I simply respond — I don't believe in bad days so it would only be fair to say I have no bad knees either.”
Smita Kulkarni, 47, a baker and homemaker, has long been a fitness enthusiast. She once took regular walks in the park. But in 2002, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and premature menopause. She was only 37.
Kulkarni soon began suffering from mood swings, hot flushes. She began to gain weight. It was getting difficult for her to cope up in her day-to-day life.
She decided to combat this at the age of 41 and decided to take a stab at running. She used to run alone earlier but soon joined a running group called Pune Road Runners.
Thereafter, she trained for several half marathons. There was no looking back. Her running buddies keep her going and they motivate each other.
I was very curious to know what inspires her to wake up at 4 am every day.
“ It's the mirror. When I look at myself I am very happy, content and proud of all the things I have achieved at this age with all the problems I have tackled,” she says.
Kulkarni has suffered from various injuries in the past and advises runners to undergo regular strength training, physiotherapy/ stretching sessions or even a break from running.
Tanvi Kulkarni is a sales professional working with an insurance company and part of Bombay Running Crew.