Running Beyond Fifty

by Paul Thompson

At this time of year we spend a lot of time reflecting as well as planning, predicting and setting resolutions. So I thought I’d join the habit, look back on my last year running in my forties and look forward to my first year running as a fifty something.

In turning 50 in the final few days of 2015 something dawned on me like a proverbial rock hitting me on the back of the head. As a 49 year-old I’d gotten use to the ‘consolation’ of being able to tell folk I was in my forties. As a 50 year-old there’s no such opportunity: it’s better to be precise.So I’m 50. On the positive side I’m once again the youngest. In my age group that is. And as such have age on my side so to speak.

This time last year I made plans for 2015 and summarized them in this post. The title, Running Plans for the Year I Turn 50, had that air of resigned inevitability. Writing the post was easier than manually totting up my 2014 mileage, and in any case at 50 my ability to do math(s) is worse than at age 15 (or 5). But for what it’s worth I reckon I did around 3,300 miles. If you wanna tot it up and let me know in the comment box below please do: my log is here.

2015 Resolutions: Shaken, Stirred or Broken?

So let’s see which, if any, of my aims I achieved.  First I said I’d run the USATF Cross Country Championships in Boulder CO and get into the top three, like I did in 2014, “but avoid having a medal on loan”. Well I ran and placed 3rd, and rather than be loaned a medal was awarded a token medal. ( I was ineligible as a non-US citizen to win the real thing.) I also got to share the podium with the athlete that got the bronze medal! Nice. Check box.

Second, I said I’d aim to  win the NYRR Runner of the Year for the M45-49 category on the basis of my performance in NYRR races, and help the men’s team improve on its 2014 performance. Well as it happens I helped the team to a repeat of their 2014 standings – 2nd masters and 4th open. On the individual front I have to wait until NYRR Club Night in late Feb. to hear whether or not my seven, out of nine, M45-49 age wins in NYRR races are enough. Matt Chaston, my closest rival, beat me convincingly at the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, where I placed 3rd, and NYRR Retro 4-Miler, where I was 2nd, but I got him back on at least four occasions! Almost check box.

Third, I did not run London or indeed any other marathon. I resolved to wait until I turned 50 before taking a shot at my marathon PR. I have in mind Manchester (UK) in early April 2016. Some strong races in the fall including the Bronx 10 in 53:36, with highest ever age grade of 93.26%, and Grete’s Half in 1:11:35 were the icing on the cake of the 2015 season. The latter was enough to get me automatic UK Championship entry to the London Marathon which likely I’ll pass in favor of Manchester where I get to run with my brother and running pal Mo’ath Alkhawaldeh.

New Year’s Resolution: Appoint a Coach

So what’s in store for 2016? Well for starters I am now, as of December 31, under the guidance of a coach for the first time since leaving the UK in 1998: I was then running for Holmfirth Harriers under the guidance of Alwyn Dewhirst.

Lee Troop has great credentials as an Olympian and Australian national record holder. Now in his early forties he coaches a few dozen elite younger athletes from his base in Boulder where he is coach at Boulder Track Club. I’m perhaps his oldest charge. His most prolific athletes include Olympic hopefuls Laura Thweatt and Sean Quigley. Most significantly his training philosophy and overall approach suit me.

2016 Plans

What ‘Troopy’ offers is access to his experience, born of running at an elite level into his forties, focus and motivation. He’s a larger than life extrovert which means his opinions come at you in spades. That’s saying something coming from a strong extrovert himself.

His first objective is to help me get a marathon PR – my best time of 2:29:56 dates from London in 2005 when I was ‘only’ 41 – in the Greater Manchester marathon in early April. During the build up I’d like to get in a fast half and win the M50-54 age group at the USATF National Cross Country Championships in Bend OR. In 2015 I was a neck in front of the M50-54 winner. Unfortunately at the time of writing Bend is doubtful.

After Manchester we’ll take stock and then make plans for the World Masters Athletics Championships in Perth, Australia in late October. There are many options but likely I’ll plump for the 8k cross country and half marathon. These are perhaps my best events and fall conveniently at either end of the 20 days program. A 1:10-1:12 in the latter, which is in my wheelhouse on the basis of recent performances, could secure a medal in the M50-54 age group.

For the rest of 2016 I have in mind helping the Warren Street team as far as I can by supporting workouts and racing in NYRR team points races, competing for national honors at a USATF National Championship such as the half. and running a classic like Peachtree on July 4 or Bay to Breakers on May 15 (the latter I did in 2014 and had a ball).

At 50, poised to start working with Lee, I’m in the starter’s blocks. By 51 I hope to have a World Masters medal and a new marathon PR.

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7 responses to “Running Beyond Fifty

  1. Hi Paul–I had the pleasure of running with you back on 11/28 in Peekskill. I really appreciated the run, and even more so after finding your blog! Fantastic stuff, and pretty inspiring to read what you have done and plan to do yet. Good luck in the future–it’s great to see your kind of passion for the sport.
    Scott Broady

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