Running and Ageing

Read an interesting article. (Thanks to Jamie for introducing this link in FB!). This is about the man who defies the odds. Truly sensational. His name is Ed Whitlock.

......Canadian masters legend Ed Whitlock turned 80 on March 6, and 13 days later set his first world record for his new age group, running an indoor 3000 in 12:00.88 (a 99.4 on the age-graded calculator). More single-age records seem sure to follow. Whitlock has achieved his greatest notoriety at the marathon distance. He was the first man over 70 to break 3:00 for the marathon, running a 2:59:10 in 2003, and he's the oldest to break 3:00 hours in the marathon, doing so at age 74. Whitlock ran a 2:54:48 at age 73.  He holds the single-age world marathon records for ages 68, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75 and 76 (3:04:54; Rotterdam 2007). Whitlock has not run a marathon since that 2007 race in Rotterdam. However, this Sunday he returns to the 26.2-mile distance in Rotterdam, and takes aim on the current age 80 record, 3:39:18. [UPDATE: Whitlock ran 3:25:43 at Rotterdam.].......

It catches my attention because this is no ordinary man. To run 3:25:43 for a 30-40 year old: Not at all impossible. But to do this at 80!? That's something else! And what really kept me awestruck is his ability to consistently produce amazing PB through out his running career! His fitness level never seemed to wane with age.

Could this be the future trend for runners? Defying the odds in our old age? Is this the secret to unlocking the fountain of youth? I think we may actually be on to something here. Forget about cosmetic surgeries or botox etc. I am not talking about looking youthful. I am talking about being physically strong and youthful despite our age. Can we actually defy the ageing process? 

Of course we cannot generalize and assume that we can achieve this as long as we follow a set of rules and take lots of vitamin c and glucosamine. We are all different in our physical make up. To put it simply, I may not recover as fast as Ed Whitlock after a LSD. Clearly he could recuperate and regenerate faster than most. Otherwise, it would be impossible for him to do what he does.

Nonetheless, we have to accept that ageing is inevitable. But there is a "successful ageing" compared to a not so successful one. A successful ageing is defined as:
  1. Low probability of disease or disability;
  2. High cognitive and physical function capacity;
  3. Active engagement with life.
An active lifestyle like marathon running encompasses and promotes all three aspects of the above.So, if you have been at it (marathon running) for a while, then you are well on the way to reap the benefit of successful ageing without even knowing it. As to whether or not you can still churn up PBs after PBs, who knows? Don't limit yourself just because "age is catching up". And just because you are chronologically older doesn't mean you have to "slow down". We are all too often influenced by public perception about ageing and how we should behave. This is another facet of ageing called psychological ageing. Some even age before their time. I guess Ed Whitlock has no problem with that aspect.... 

But to be honest, if we have listened to that, how many of us would have actually taken up marathon running? It's good that people like us are defiant. We defy the odds by running the miles when we "should not be doing it". We defy the thoughts that as we age, we have to cut down on our running. Only the skeptics will try to convince you of that. And they are often the ones who have not even run a marathon before in their life. 

So, my conclusion is simple: Know your (ageing) body and listen to it. And keep running. And let nothing else tell you otherwise. Bravo to Ed, a true inspiration!


Popular Posts