Masters Division running should be approached with excitement as it provides an opportunity to restart your running career or find new and unique running challenges. Too often it is simply considered a reflection of age, with many runners considering it the end of being competitive or the slow decline out of running altogether. Instead of giving into the stigmas associated with aging as a runner, embrace being a Master and make each footfall count, as you focus less on age and more on the “Mastery of Running”.
Resetting Personal Records… While Remembering Running Lessons Learned
Joining other runners as a Master does not require you to forget your past running experiences and personal records, but rather take this as an opportunity to remove the pressure these PRs and expectations have created. This is not to state that you can’t compete (if you are a competitive runner) or you won’t win an overall race, but that entering Masters Division is an important time to evaluate where you are, and where you want to go as a runner.
Getting a Fresh Start
Resetting your personal records is exactly that, a reset, not a forget everything you have achieved. Try writing down your pre-masters PRs and even converse with other runners regarding your previous records and expectations. This removes the pressure to compete against your greatest adversary… the younger you. This goes for all running levels, from non-competitive to elite runners. By separating the pre and post-Masters records, you can set new goals and get a fresh start on running versus attempting to reach goals that may bring about injury and frustration.
During this process, also evaluate if the distances you are running are suitable for your body. It may be a time to embrace shorter distances, such as 5K and 10K, versus a full Marathon, given the toll Marathon training has on the body.
Use Your Experience
As you transition into a fresh mindset of obtaining new goals, it is critical to acknowledge your previous experiences and let these help craft the future Masters runner you want to become. This includes knowing what routines have worked for you in training and on race day, especially stretching (where you should be dynamically stretching before any workout or race).
Write down some of your favorite and worst running experiences, and if possible, document previous races and running experiences in a scrapbook. This will literally allow you to turn the page into a new chapter of running… but do so without fear that this is the final chapter, as runners have run well into their 90s, and Masters Division can be one of the most competitive divisions to race in!
How to Adjust Your Training as a Masters Runner
As you age, it takes longer to recover between workouts and injuries. With this in mind, joining Masters Division is a great opportunity to reevaluate your training regime. You may discover that you have been running too many miles, or junk miles, and need to turn to a more balanced program of running three to five days a week with cross training to give your body the recovery it requires. Couple this with strength training to increase injury prevention and possibly get faster/stronger than your younger running self as you start to train smarter.
Before you embark on your new running program, use this as a great excuse to check with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough to continue running, especially as it pertains to heart issues. It is imperative to establish this baseline and work with your health care provider so that you can more easily track and hopefully prevent issues before you are completely sidelined… or worse.
Giving Back to the Running Community
Running is more than just training and racing. There is a vibrant community that needs nurturing and what better way to stay involved then becoming a volunteer or leader in the running community. This can take many forms from coaching youth, coaching peers, handing out water at race stations, helping plan a race, taking a leadership position in your local running club, or even becoming a race director.
This doesn’t mean that you give up running, just that you dive deeper into the core of what really makes the running community beautiful… a combination of diverse individuals who share a common love for all that running entails. It is also a great way to stay connected during injury or times of setup. Those who give to the running community quickly find that they get more out of it than they put in!
Finding New and Interesting Challenges (Not Just Longer Distances)
As you refresh your running career heading into the Masters Division, there a bevy of running goals to consider. Don’t automatically jump into the trap of thinking that a longer distance, such as a Marathon, should be the default goal. Many runners believe that this is the natural order of running once they have become “slower”, where instead you should focus on the distances and events that make you happy.
With this in mind, 5Ks and 10Ks are great distances. There is competition abound in these races for Masters, and it will likely be the same individuals you have competed against or run with your entire life (including those you may have raced in High School or College). For those that just enjoy the non-competitive aspects of running, you can train and support your fellow Masters runners, which may end up being far more rewarding than competing against each other!
Obstacle races and relay events such as the Ragnar Relay offer a new level of fun. Be forewarned that injury risk is higher, especially in obstacle racing, so make sure to properly cross and strength train before jumping into one of these events.
In essence, being a Masters runner offers you limitless opportunities since you are no longer beholden to the previous you. For Track and Field runners, you can start in USA Track and Field events as a Master at age 30. Long-distance running (off track) begins at 40. Within Masters, there are several subdivisions usually graded at every 10 years. This loosely includes Young Masters (35-44 years old), Middle Masters (45-54 years old), a tough drop-off around the 55-64 years old Age Ranked division, Senior Masters (65-74 years old), and Super Masters (75 years and older). So, don’t give up but get out there and enjoy your new running renewal.