Do’s And Don’ts For Masters Runners

Races such as the Carlsbad 5000 offer ultra-competitive Masters-only races. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Don’t…

Go nuts at 39 ½. Many runners, especially those who’ve been competitively dormant for a few years, ramp up their training in anticipation of making an immediate impact in the Masters ranks. This is risky; not only does it put extra and often sudden demands on the body, but does so at a time when the legs are beginning to demand temperance. Numerous accomplished runners have promptly gotten hurt after trying to reclaim their open-division glory too quickly and energetically.

Save your strength. Pete Magill, who at age 49 became the oldest American to break 15:00 for 5K, believes that strength training is indispensable for Masters runners, but that there’s no margin for error when it comes to its allocation. Magill, who pointedly quips that Masters training is a “No-Mistake Zone,” says that hills constitute sufficient strength training for most masters, and that drills that more closely resemble dynamic stretching are are preferable to plyometrics.

Run in worn-out or inappropriate shoes. Younger runners often violate this mandate for the simple reason that they can get away with it. But as a corollary to the fact that your muscles recover more slowly and have accumulated more wear and tear when you’re older, you can’t afford to slack off when it comes to preventing as much damage as you can. Many runners report boasting of exceeding standard recommendations for replacing their shoes by several hundred miles or more; if you’re among them and are running into your fifth decade, consider tabling thriftiness in favor of temperance.

Be a slave to extended schedules. Operating on a months-long schedule with multiple hard workouts a week is a difficult enterprise even for younger, healthy runners who are often less encumbered by family and work obligations. A Masters athlete expecting to nail every hill, tempo, or interval session over a whole trimester or more is courting both disappointment and infirmity.

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