AGING AND RUNNING: When I was a child I ran for... - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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IannodaTruffe profile image

When I was a child I ran for fun, because I could. As a teenager I was, like so many others, forced to run and it, unsurprisingly, was around about then that the magic of running disappeared from my life. Some things in life are inevitable and the alternatives to aging are either being dead, or not being a runner, so what can runners embracing the inevitable expect as they, day by day, year by year, get older?

I started C25k at the age of 57 in an attempt to stave off some of the seemingly inevitable declines in stamina and strength that advancing age presents to us. The response of my body was remarkable. By the time I was 60 I felt fitter and happier than ever in my life, but I had to accept that I had not actually reversed the aging process, only slowed it to a degree.

For those who have run continuously from an early age performance peaks in mid to late twenties, although the longer the duration of the individual’s chosen distance the later that peak can be pushed back, as the holders of the current men’s world records as of September 2020 clearly illustrate.

Usain Bolt ……………...100m…………...……...............age 23

Hicham El Guerrouj …..1500m…………………........age 24

Kenenisa Bekele………10000m……………...............age 23

Geoffrey Kamworor…...Half Marathon…………..age 27

Eliud Kipchoge ………..Marathon………………........age 34

Yiannis Kouros………...24 hour ultra………….........age 41

That ability to push back the bounds has a limit though and it is not surprising that at the age of 40 the classification for runners becomes Masters, formerly Veterans. Forty is one of those thresholds, after which you need to be kind to yourself and accept that you are not likely to hit performance targets that you managed with ease ten years before.

As we age we lose muscle mass from as early as our twenties and by our thirties our bone mass is also in decline. We first of all tend to lose fast twitch muscle, used for sprinting, followed by slow twitch muscle, used for endurance, which partially explains the table of records and ages above. This decline increases for women around the menopause and for most men after 65 and is linked to natural reductions in hormone levels of estrogen, testosterone, and growth hormone. Even elite athletes can lose about 20 percent of their muscle fibres between ages 40 and 70.

Our ability to transport oxygen also reduces for a whole host of complex reasons, such as diminishing maximum heart rate, reduction in capillaries and mitochondria and possibly clogged and inflexible arteries, due to lifestyle and diet.

Body development when training will be slower than in younger runners and recovery times are also longer the older we get.

To a non runner this all looks depressing and is just speeding us to our impending demise………..but of course we runners are optimistic and positive and we know that we can minimise the ravages of time by training carefully and there are some areas that we need to pay special attention to maximise our potential.


As we age we tend to be less active and many put on weight. When young people gain weight, about one-third of the weight gained is lean muscle. When older people, in particular older women, gain weight, it's usually fat. When older people lose weight—due to illness or a low-calorie diet—half of the weight lost is muscle.

Being a healthy weight is important. Body fat secretes hormones that have negative effects on muscle strength and contribute to increased inflammation, particularly after age 60. Inflammation can lead to heart disease and diabetes.

To maintain muscle mass as we age we need to keep those muscles active and provide our bodies with the nutrients required to build/rebuild the muscle. So maintaining regular exercise is crucial and there is a body of opinion that suggests that those in their sixties should be increasing their exercise levels. It is argued that increasing protein levels in our diets to as much as 25% of total dietary intake will help compensate for the hormone loss, for those in their sixties.

Resistance exercise (such as weightlifting, water aerobics and Pilates) as well as general fitness workout sessions will pay dividends, preserving muscle and strength.


When I was looking around for a simple, quick, no equipment workout to do on non run days I searched high and low but arrived on an Android app called Home Workout-No Equipment & Meal Planner by Simple Design Ltd.

iOs app here

It has a whole range of different routines but I do the Classic 7 Minutes Workout with additional warmups, which takes under 12 minutes in total. Like C25k it is duration based, in that each discipline is only done for 30 seconds. So if you can only manage one push up in the first session, you will be delighted when you can move on. It seems like barely limbering up but it is incredible how much strength and control it will build if done frequently. It works on flexibility, balance, upper, lower and core body strength and is an ideal complement to running. It says no equipment but does require a chair and a wall or door.

VO2 max

As already stated, our ability to transport oxygen, vital to triggering activity in muscle, declines with age and consequently our V02 max will decrease. In simple terms this is the maximum amount of oxygen that our bodies can utilise and a man of 65+ with a VO2 max of 37 or above would be considered excellent, whereas that same figure would be considered below average for a male in the 18-25 age range. By increasing your VO2 max you can potentially increase your lifespan, whilst reducing your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers and theoretically sleep better and have more stable moods.

Hefty claims, so how to achieve it? The simplest way is to make sure that sometimes you work hard at 90-95% of your maximum heart rate and one of the simplest ways to achieve that is by using interval or fartlek training. It is recommended that 80% of your running should be at an easy conversational pace, which roughly equates to 75% of your maximum heart rate and if you are a new runner still doing C25k this should be your aim for all of your running, while you build your strength and injury resistance. Once graduated though, if you want to maximise VO2 max, some intervals will help develop your oxygen utilisation, although it will naturally develop in a new runner even at an easy pace, but less rapidly.

It is often stated that older established runners can improve their times for shorter (5k) runs by doing more short training runs, whereas for younger runners there is reckoned to be a greater advantage doing longer training runs to develop overall stamina.


There is undeniably a decline in physical ability associated with aging but when in competition with a range of ages it is possible to compare the effort of the older runner with that of a younger runner by using age grading, as employed by the parkrun movement and others. Age grading takes the world record time of each age group and produces a percentage score based on your time. So an age grading score of 50% means that your time is half that of the world record for your age and gender. That score is theoretically directly comparable to the score attained by those in different age ranges. I believe it does favour the older runner simply because there are fewer highly competitive runners in the older age brackets, but it does give you a boost to see that you beat someone on grading, even if they left you in their dust!


One other aspect of aging that needs to be considered is recovery times, which tend to increase as the body does not repair itself as efficiently as you age. This needs to be considered in particular when looking at training plans, which may well be effective for younger runners, but may need to be adjusted for older runners, to avoid burnout and injury. Have extra rest days if necessary. Also take this into account when tapering training before an event ……..if you are older then give yourself more rest time prior to a competitive run.


Another consequence of being less active is that our balance often suffers, resulting in more falls as people age. Running is excellent at helping to preserve this and because of the impact, bone density too, especially running on uneven ground, but there are other simple ways to build balancing into our daily routines, which means it is addressed daily. I work on the basis that if I do something every day, then I will continue to be able to do it every day. When I put my socks on, or take them off, I do that standing on one leg, not sitting down. Tooth cleaning is a golden opportunity to either stand on one leg or as I do, single leg dips. Timed by my electric toothbrush, I do 3 x 30 seconds on my weaker left leg and the remaining 30 on my right. Clean teeth, strengthened legs and maintained balance all in two minutes.


With reduced capillary density and generally creakier joints, the pre run warmup is of even more relevance to the older runner, to get everything working smoothly and flexibly before the hard don't be tempted to cut it short or injury risk will be increased, Cooldown is equally important and older runners apparently report lightheadedness or faints more frequently than average after running, especially if they just stop suddenly. This is to do with heart rate dropping quite rapidly while veins are still dilated, which can cause pooling of blood in the legs and a subsequent drop in blood pressure. So always maintain a good five minute cooldown walk followed by static stretches to improve muscle recovery.

To round up, we need to keep pushing ourselves, occasionally, watch our diets all the time, do strength and resistance training regularly but also accept gracefully that we are unlikely to perform to the level we did in the past, although it is often said a new runner keeps improving for the first seven years. I have been running for seven years, but having started at 57 the improvement only kept coming for the first three years or so, after which critical illness and injury stopped any progress on PBs, but the good level of fitness acquired through running has held me in good stead through all this and the joy and mental well being garnered through plodding along beautiful natural running routes keeps me at it………….who cares if I am slower than I used to be, I am still running and still smiling.

There are more FAQ posts giving general information here

71 Replies
Instructor57 profile image

Fantastic post 👍👏👏👏

Great write up. Thanks

John_W profile image

Excellent post Tim, thank you.

Both incredibly depressing as a runner, but equally uplifting as a runner!

"a new runner keeps improving for the first seven years. "

Yikes ... 1 year to go!

CBDB profile image

Thank you! Great for us newbie oldie runners!

Great post on a subject close to my heart. Thank you. ( I started running at 61, I’m now 64.) another good read on the subject is “What I talk about when I talk about running.”’ By Haruki Murakami. (Who you may know from his novels.)

Running is helping me feel confident about my health and stay sane in these trying times.

Thanks again.

roseabi profile image

Thanks for this great post! xxxx

I love that because I took up running I am now, in my 50s, in the best shape I have ever been!! And I'm sure I'm not alone in being able to say something like that.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to roseabi

We know it is a life changer and I might even say a life saver.

I will put this one in the FAQ Posts.

roseabi profile image
roseabiAdministrator in reply to IannodaTruffe


MikeJones68 profile image
MikeJones68Graduate in reply to roseabi


Great post. I logged on to shout that aging is sure better than the alternative but you beat me to it the first para.

I’ve just got back from my run. We’re on lockdown in France and are limited to one hour’s exercise a day going no more than 1km from home, so I’ve set myself a target to get my 5k time down to 2019 levels while running the same route 3 times a week. I hope I can manage that, although I’ve been running almost exactly 3 years now. As my shoes are wearing out, I’m hoping I’ll get some extra help from the new ones.

Lots of love xxx

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Lizzisforliving

Yep, I would rather be plodding along as an old geezer with a smile on my face than pushing up the daisies. Maintaining fitness into our later years certainly improves our quality of life.

Keep running, keep smiling.

whibbles profile image
whibblesGraduate in reply to Lizzisforliving

Also locked down in France but managed to find a 5km route along the old railway line. Would love to get back to my Divonne parkrun best of 28:28 in 2018 so good luck with your 5K time.

Blossom- profile image

Wow such an interesting post. I'm female, 66 been doing this since April and feel great both physically and mentally. I have so much more stamina now, I do strength training and yoga. So I feel I'm fitter than I've ever been. Just loving every run! Thank you x

Birdlady64 profile image

Wonderful post!

The part about being forced to run as a teenager particularly resonates - I have hated running for as long as I can remember, until finding c25k and this forum during lockdown.

Finding running, and discovering a love for it I never though I would have, has quite simply been transformational. At the age of 56 I am leaner, fitter and happier than I can remember. And, if you are right, I've got roughly 6 and a half years of improvement to look forward to!

Long live older runners!

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Birdlady64

It is the mental well being and happiness that is the biggest bonus in my opinion.

Keep it up.

Birdlady64 profile image
Birdlady64Graduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

Yes absolutely agree, and especially in these mad, crazy times right now

Roxdog profile image

Great, thanks for the post! No gazelle here, but at 60 I can run a long way, be mindful, get lean and strong and fearless! That's it - no records for me! Who cares!

Smile23 profile image

Thank you this is so informative. Fantastic post. My brain loves the stats and common sense here 👏👏👏

mrrun profile image

Top post, good sir! Running can open up many a previously locked avenue where we discover some long forgotten beauties. I reckon I'll blossom in my seventies. Still likely to remain a cynical and grumpy sod though.

Raisemeup profile image

Extremely helpful as I'm new to running after many decades (formerly sprinting) and just completed w8! Is it unrealistic then to think in terms of being an older sprinter when you're in your 60's!.i still recall the thrill of the track and Adidas spikes carrying you to an exciting crossing of the finish line. Also, does the fact that even though you last ran as a teenager, does that give an advantage in anyway from which you may benefit, as opposed to starting out totally new to running I later life?

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Raisemeup

I am afraid that the years between your teens and your sixties will have done away with any advantage that you had all those decades ago. The lesson to learn is that the older you are the more careful you have to be with your body, so slow and steady progress is always the key to avoiding injury.

Beau21 profile image
Beau21Graduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

I am 60 in February and feel confident after reading your post that there could be a few years left in the old dog yet😂

whibbles profile image

Many thanks for the detailed post. I got addicted to C25K and parkrun three years ago at the age of 65. I’ve had a few injuries so have graduated several times ! In May and June had chemo and radiotherapy sessions and went back to the early weeks of C25k to get me out walking and running. Scans all clear in September so worked my way back to 5km and managed several (non) parkruns with a few friends until the recent lockdown in France. Running has been really important for me this year in so many ways and even if I dont enjoy some runs, the sense of achievement keeps me going. I have been trying to get my times down and its been a struggle with my Garmin reporting an average heart rate of over 140 bpm for 30 minutes so today I decided to listen to music. I made a running playlist on Spotify and tried to enjoy the run without pushing too hard and it worked - really enjoyed the run, not my fastest but heart rate averaged 125bpm. Sorry for the ramble and wishing you all best with your treatment. PS my name is Tim as well

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to whibbles

I am in the middle of chemo myself and just about managing one or two short runs each cycle, so I understand where you are coming from.

Trying to forget about pace and times is the key for me.........just run for fun, for joy of living and the endorphins.

Maddee_6333 profile image

Great read

Frizzbomb67 profile image

Great post! Thanks for taking the time to write it 👍🏻

PeggySusi profile image

Thank you IannodaTruffe for another informative, interesting and useful post, especially for older runners. You have confirmed some of my reasons for starting CouchTo5k and given me even more reasons to keep trying..

Wishing you all the best with your treatment..😊

Brilliant and interesting post. xxx

Fionamags profile image

Beautiful! A great pick me up on a miserable day. Thanks.

Buddhagal profile image

Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing👍👍👍

Newbie59 profile image

Thank you for reminding us recent older graduates that it is worth keeping on keeping going keeping running, even if it is getting a bit harder to get out of the house, as the days get shorter.

Granspeed profile image

Informative and cheerful as ever. Thank you. 🎉😄🎉

Piscator profile image

Since graduating in July I’ve been looking out for posts of interest to older runners so enjoyed this post and found it useful.

I’m 74 and started C25K after my gym closed. Although I’ve enjoyed sports all my life I’ve never liked running and still don’t if I’m honest. But accompanied by my music and the encouragement of the wonderful Michael Johnson I graduated without missing a beat and felt good about it.

Since then I’ve continued running 3 times a week but have settled into 20 minute runs - sometimes more - which I can manage quite comfortably and which, combined with daily exercises, seem to maintain a reasonable level of fitness. I’ll maybe go for longer runs when the muddy track I run on dries up a bit but I have no ambition to run for 10k although I admire those who do.

I’ve enjoyed the C25K app and would recommend it to anyone and especially to other oldies who want to keep fit.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Piscator

Welcome to the forum and congratulations on your graduation.

This guide to post C25k running may be helpful

Keep running, keep smiling.

Sonia52 profile image


HeavyFoot profile image

Such an interesting post which will repay frequent reading. It keeps us both grounded and also with our heads in the skies.

At 65 I’m doing some sprint/walk intervals but sprinting now isn’t the same as I was doing as an athletic teen. Only in my dreams! But then I always seemed to come in second. Now I run for myself and come in first.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to HeavyFoot


It is worthwhile doing what we can to keep fit as the contribution to quality of life is so valuable.

If you are pushing your system it will help and it matters not that your performance doesn't match that of your youth.

Keep it up.

Im 65 next birthday so im concerned i have left it abit late to start running, albeit more of a jog, ?

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to HOMEWORKER20

If you read the guide that I have linked to in reply to your other post, you will find mention of an 83 year old not write yourself off at a mere 65 years of can do this and transform your life.

Thanks. I will try slow running and keep repeating day one different days one till i complete it!!

coolfemme profile image
coolfemmeGraduate in reply to HOMEWORKER20

I just started at 73, I've completed week 4. The app is good and easy to follow and definitely a slow jog right now.

LottieMW profile image
LottieMWGraduate in reply to HOMEWORKER20

I started C25k the day after my 65th birthday! I was looking for some structure in my week as I had just retired.

I fully embraced the concept of Japanese slow jogging and successfully graduated without missing a week to injury. I covered 3.3k for my graduation run.

I continued with consolidation runs of 30 minutes x3 per week for about a month, then started a gradual progression of time using JuJu’s Magic Plan over on Bridge to 10k. I plan to jog for 60 minutes on Xmas day 😊

C25k is not a race, it is a programme to get you active and build up your stamina...and all the things mentioned in this excellent post. You will be doing it for *you*.

I did a 30 minute jog last week and covered 3.56km 😂...but I have also now completed x4 5km run/jogs...the last one took me 49:37.

It’s never too it! 🐌🐢🏃🏻‍♀️🥰

swim63 profile image

I'm a bit late reading this, only just found it!Really interesting and encouraging, thank you.

Also, wish you all the very best for your treatment, hope you get great results 🙏

BonniesRest profile image

Lovely and invigorating post - Thankyou. I’m learning that the show isn’t over unless we give up. Running is enhancing so many aspects of my life. Let’s all keep on keeping on 🤗

Very good motivation to get off my old arse and do something. Only 60 but feeling a lot older than that.

Yellowsunset profile image

Great post... Interesting and informative right through! Best wishes with your treatment...

Between necessary rest, Keep Running & smiling!


Many thanks for this, very helpful and informative explanations. 🏃‍♂️

misswobble profile image

Great post 😃👍

I was a few days away from 57 when I started C25k to help lose weight and get fitter

Brilliant programme 🙂. I started marathon running aged 60 and plan to do one every year on my birthday for as long as I can

CatTheSecond profile image

Thank you for a really helpful post, just turned 60 and I’m halfway through the program. I’m determined to keep going. Good luck with your chemo, and keep running

Anthony59 profile image

Fantastic Post! I can relate to so much of this.👍😁😁

Zev1963 profile image

Very inspiring post. I started running with C25K back in 2014. It is only this year that I have started to try to improve core strength (I'm 57 now). With the fitness centres closed for covid restrictions I'm starting with planks, push ups, pull ups and some Yoga positions for gaining flexibility. I like your approach to aging. It is so easy to feel dispondant about the inevitable decline. But you are right, our aim should be to slow that decline as much as we can. And having only begun running in my early 50s, I actually still feel much better now than I did in my 40s as an overweight couch potato.

Wow! Thank you for an excellent enlightening post on Aging and Running

At 82yrs, after graduation my aim was to complete the 5K (3.1 miles). It took several attempts but finally got there in about 17 weeks in 45mins. 43 seconds. I was encouraged by this and so I jogged/ran the ‘Stamina’ podcast twice a week and a complete 5k once a week.

I was quite smug at having run five 5Ks and planning for 7K and beyond But, there is always a But, now on my left leg my hamstrings are complaining and the knee joint grumbling (half tendon leg) so I have rested for a few days and the pains are subsiding. I hope to start training again on Monday at a less demanding pace. My only fear is that my fitness level has not dropped too low.

Having read your article I can now make informed decisions about my training. Thank You again.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Newbirunner

Are you following the advice in the guide to post C25K running about increasing training load?

I have now and it proves that old adage "there's no fool like an old fool" I shall reprogram my running schedule and thanks for the additional web sites.

Excellent and timely for me, also starting at 57. This is so informative. Thank you!

LottieMW profile image

Only just come across this...fabulous!

...started C25k the day after my 65th birthday...and planning a 60 minute jog on Xmas day 😊🐌🐢🏃🏻‍♀️🎄🥰

Jacqx profile image

Excellent post Feel encouraged & a lot more confident

thank you

Dexy5 profile image

I’ve only just spotted this. By replying now, it will hopefully be brought to other’s attention . I started running at 60 and thankfully veered off the inevitable path to diabetes or a stroke .

Running is the best thing I’ve ever done for my health, and it has allowed me to come off hypertension medication, and helped me through the pandemic . It is great for body and soul.

Lablove profile image

I started running when I retired, in between ‘lockdowns’ I felt the need to do something to get out of the house. Until that point I’d actively avoided running😂 I decided I’d give C25k a go, it was the best decision ever. I took part in my first ever Park Run last Saturday and am now trying to cross the bridge to 10k. Although I find it hard work especially on lead-legs days the adrenaline high when I’ve finished is worth it.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Lablove

For many of us, starting to run has been a life-changing experience.Lead legs sounds like poor hydration. This FAQ post may help

Lablove profile image
LabloveGraduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

Thanks Ian, I’ll check it out.

Lola-bear profile image

Hi I’ve just read this post and find it really inspiring and helpful. I have been consolidating after graduating and some runs I feel like a gazelle and someI feel like a donkey. I suppose at 61 I got all giddy about my graduation and loved following the plan but now I feel a little lost. I’m not bothered about being faster and I have run 5K in my last 2 runs by running a little longer but it has taken it out of me and I am taking an extra day recovery however I do miss the structure of the c25k and Sarah Milligan’s dulcet tones.Your post has explained to me that I have to take age into consideration but if it is that I only do what I’m doing then my body and health will benefit greatly.

Thank you

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Lola-bear

Have you visited this month's Consolidation Club, where new graduates can discuss their progress and get support going forward

Lola-bear profile image
Lola-bearGraduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

Thank you I will do

Absolutely fascinating if a tad depressing ( being in that older age bracket like you) 🙏

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to ebcroquet

What is depressing?................becoming infirm and housebound through inactivity would be depressing.

Lola-bear profile image
Lola-bearGraduate in reply to ebcroquet

Haha oh dear I would perhaps have thought that when I was younger but hey being 61 and a runner is the absolute opposite of depressing, running has given me a new zest for life.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Lola-bear

Here, here!!!

The inevitable steady decline. But hey I’m raging with you 💪

Speedy60 profile image

Just reading the bit about training plans and recovery times has made me sigh. I'm 61 and have been running for nearly three years. I've always been sensible, taken my time and enjoyed myself. Until June.

That's when I signed up for the Bristol half marathon with a friend who's faster than me. Stupidly, and for the first time in my running life, I decided I needed to speed up. First Garmin strength training workout, I damaged my hip. 😖

I'm so over being cross with myself, I just need to get better! My recovery has been so slow. Yesterday was the first time in three months I've been able to sit on my 🍑. Honestly, I've had to stand up or lay flat on my back. No half marathon for me. 😔

Also, no more stupid generic Hiit training programmes that don't take into account age or fitness. (When I had a programme worked out at my local gym, I never injured myself because the instructor had worked with me and taken these things into account. ) From now on it's pilates, swimming, resistance bands, walking and running.

There's a balance to be struck between respecting your age and 'age is just a number'!

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Speedy60

Conditioning is the key, as with anything that challenges our bodies. It doesn't really matter about age, as long as your physical condition meets the demands made of it.

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