Everyone knows that aging is inevitable. But how we age is up to us. If you need more proof of that, you need to know about 3 gentlemen who ran in last fall’s NYC Marathon.
Abdi Abdirahman, Bernard Lagat and Juan Luis Barrios are aged 41, 43 and 35, respectively. Notable is the fact that Barrios returned his fastest career marathon time earlier in 2018, in Tokyo. He believes that’s just the beginning of his running prime.
At 41, Abdirahman is looking at competing as part of the American Olympic team in 2020 – his 5th time out. And in 2016, he placed 3rd in the NYC Marathon, as the top American to finish.
If anyone knows how to run a marathon faster as you get older, it’s these guys. They’re running in marathons while other athletes their age are hanging up their trainers. So, what’s the secret?
Interesting to note is that at as we age, fast-twitch muscle fiber degrades. This is the muscle facility which allows the body to continue at velocity even once fatigue has set in. But as the body ages, that fiber is transformed, becoming slow-twitch, which is needed for endurance events like marathons.
So, what are these older runners doing to continue competing at such high levels? They’re combining strength training with speed work to keep their competitive edge. As for Abdirahman, Lagat and Barrios, they’re also running 85 to 130 miles each week to prepare for events.
Maybe the modern miracle of the internet has something to do with it. Or maybe it’s just taking a smarter approach to training that encompasses more than the need for speed.
A training schedule that works incorporates adequate rest time from intense workouts. For these guys, recovery means an 8 to 12 mile run – with each mile completed in between 6.5 and 7 minutes.
A different mentality
Anyone who participates in distance running knows that runners are a breed apart but the mentality of these older distance runners is what really sets them apart, allowing them return faster times.
What matters is preparing the mind for the end of the race. Races may be hot off the blocks, or in mid-stream. But the only speed that really matters is near the finish line.
That’s where the rubber meets the road and where runners must have the strength to push through pain built up over the course of the race.
Another factor in that mentality is the ability to learn. These elite marathoners have learned to adapt to the changing realities of their bodies and as their exceptional showings demonstrate, that adaptation works.
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