Dear Veteran Runner,
Congratulations on enjoying a long running career. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t feel like a “veteran runner” until just a few years back. I’ve been running for 17 years now and for most of that time I’ve felt like I was learning more than giving back any sense of knowledge or wisdom. But recently I’ve noticed people tend to pay attention and seek out my pearls of running experience. So, I guess I’m one of the old runners now.
(Thule, Greenland 2000…the beginning)
As a follow up to my letter to new runners, I asked myself what have I learned in these 17 years? The list is endless, but I’ll try to capture a few key topics in hopes of passing on my take on being a veteran runner.
#1 Everyone is important. I can still remember my first 5k, standing at the starting line looking at all the “real runners” and believing that the race was really for them. I thought for sure I was just there as a backdrop to their race. I was there to give the fast crowd some form of measurement. I kept to myself, ran my race and went home I’m sure unnoticed by the majority.
I have since learned that everyone is important. Everyone lining up for a race is running for their place on the finishing line. Some in the crowd will run a fast race and some will run slow. Some runners are battling life threating diseases, some are on the road of recovery. Everyone who ties their shoes, pins a number on their chest and runs the race is important. As a veteran, I want to ensure I show that I value everyone in the race. I want to celebrate in their victory as much as my own. As a veteran runner, everyone is important.
#2 Listen to your body more than ever. Being a veteran runner means that you are older. Like it or hate it, it is a fact. And as such we need to listen to our body. We need to pay attention to the little issues that might crop up one day and sideline us the next. I have found that I do not bounce back as fast as I used to. When our body talks we need to listen before it becomes a major statement which might shut us down for an extended time. As a veteran runner listen to your body.
#3 You can still set personal records (PR). Just because you’re getting older does not mean your better days are behind you. With experience comes wisdom, with wisdom comes improved race times. Whether in training or on race day knowing how to maximize your fitness, how to use your race day experience and how to leverage your insight into racing strategies can aid you in shaving seconds, minutes or even hours off the clock. As a veteran runner, experience can overcome youth on the clock.
Some times running a faster race time is not about running faster…it’s about tactics and race day strategies. My book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter) can help you set new PRs and run your best races.
#4 Be accessible. Standing on that first starting line, my attentions where drawn to the experienced racers. I was watching them, whether they knew it or not. Being a rookie, I wanted to see how they lined up, how they prepped for the race and how they ran the race. I also watched to see how they interacted with their peers, new comers and fellow runners. Sadly, no one noticed me. I left that race much the way I arrived, one runner, one face in the crowd. I left with no sense of community. As an experienced runner, you stand out, and you reflect the running community. Whether you intend to or not people notice you, people pay attention, and new runners form their opinion of the community by watching you. As a veteran runner, you are the ambassador of our sport, be a good example.
(Just a few of the group/community experiences I’ve shared)
#5 Pay attention to the experience. Running offers so much to our lives. Running is an open door to adventure, an escape from our work-a day-world. Occasionally turn off your watch, forget about Strava, Mapmyrun, your training plan and simply run to enjoy movement. Smell the roses. Feel the grit of dirt on your skin. Enjoy the sensation of sweat running down your back. Celebrate the action of your heart. Simply run. As a veteran runner enjoy the ride.
You only become an veteran runner by running. You can’t buy it. You can’t borrow it. You can’t find it in a closet hidden in an old dusty box. You must earn being a veteran runner. That feeling comes to each one us at a time and place unique to us. One day while getting ready for a race, you’ll stand and look in the mirror and see a veteran runner looking back at you. As a veteran runner make sure it’s a good example…someone you would want to run with, learn from and one day be.