On the Comeback Trail at Age 69
"It's far better to be coming back than going away." That's a quote that jumped out at me as I read Amby Burfoot's excellent newsletter this week. I've had quite a few comebacks during my first 13 years of running that began in 2008, but this one's the biggy.
From when I began running in September of 2008 to the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic, there were brief periods that I was sidelined with injuries but I always came back relatively quickly. I averaged around 40 races a year, give or take, and loved the camaraderie I found in the running community.
During my very best racing years from age 58 to 62 I was able to keep my weight in the range of 138 to 143 pounds. Of course there are lots of factors involved in race performance, but for me, keeping my weight in check has been a struggle because I really like to eat, and I don't mean kale and broccoli. My preferences are more along the lines of ice cream, pizza, burgers, and fries, so it's been a never ending battle to eat healthy, which I try to do, albeit imperfectly. By early 2020 my weight had crept up to the low 150s, around 10 pounds heavier than ideal for me.
By the time the pandemic hit I was already thinking about giving up on running. I was having a hard time keeping up with the guys I used to run with. I had arthritis in both of my knees, a hip that bothered me anytime I ran more than a few miles, and back pain that developed in April of 2020 that still limits where I'm able to sit.
The pandemic also resulted in most races being canceled, so without the races as incentive and with all of my niggling aches and pains, I ran less and less each day. I finally decided that I'd stop running completely for a while to see if an extended period of time away from running might help, so for a couple months I didn't run at all. Instead of getting up early on Saturday morning to head to a race I stayed in bed, and it felt good. I told my wife that I was through with racing for good.
As enjoyable as it was to sleep in on Saturdays, there were some downsides. My fondness for junk food resulted in me gaining weight, so instead of being 10 pounds over my ideal running weight it became 30 pounds. The 50 pounds that I had lost on Weight Watchers back in 2008 were coming back quickly, and I knew something needed to be done.
Right around the first of the year in 2021 I decided that if I was going to be healthy I needed to get back to running and racing. My not-so-optimistic goals include running 100 miles per month and running a 5k in under 30 minutes as well as running the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon on June 1st in under 2:15:00.
Since I'm no longer able to run a mile without taking a walk break, I decided to give Jeff Galloway's Run-Walk-Run method a try. I had used it during my first year of running and had some success with it, but at that time I was in good enough shape that I really didn't need to take walk breaks so I put it on the back burner, thinking I would eventually come back to it at some time later in life if I felt I could benefit from it. So here we are.
After trying several different ratios recently in my training I've decided that the best option for me right now is 60:30. That is, I'll run for 60 seconds and then walk for 30 seconds, continuing that pattern until I'm finished. If I'm in a race I may try to go a little longer than 60 seconds, just depending on how I feel.
As I write this it's Friday night, February 26, 2021. Tomorrow will be my 69th birthday and I'm planning on running my first 5k race in over a year using the Run-Walk-Run method. I'm excited to get back to racing. I've been around long enough to not expect any miracles and I expect to finish somewhere between 27 and 30 minutes, depending on how things go.