A Case Study on Long Distance Running for Seniors



Training and running 5 marathons in 1 year at age 59 would build stamina stepping through the threshold of 6-0.
1 59 yr. old runner did over 2,000 miles, starting at age 58 to get ready for lst of 5 marathons, 1 month prior to his 59th birthday.  Trained in hot and humid East Honolulu. Used i-Pod disco music for company and diversion from boredom of solo long distance training.  Signed up for marathons to have deadlines to train for.  The runner's history of knee problems (ran 13 previous Honolulu Marathons from age 30) turned out not to be a factor.  Evidently the variety of supplements, including glucosamine and chonroitin, were beneficial.  Besides these nutrients, the knees were iced down after every long run and marathons. Materials for the marathons included Adidas New Balance shoes with cushion inserts, shorts, tank shirt, baseball cap, i-Pod, 7 disposable cameras to document the courses (art project), dark glasses, 8 Pro-Gel nutrient packs and lots of Gatorade and water at the Aid Stations along the courses.
All marathons were completed.  However only 1 was run all the way.  Cramps set in or threatened between 20-24 mile marks of the races.  The runner walked in across the line.  Times were from a best of 5:39 to a worst of 6:50.  At age 39 the runner did his best time of 3:39.  Marathons run for this experiment was the Honolulu Marathon ('04, '05), the Hilo Marathon (3/05), the Eugene-Oregon (6/05), and the Maui Marathon (7/05).  After the lst marathon, the runner experienced chronic aches and pains of the leg muscles and ligaments as well as sometimes the hip joint.  It was hypothesized that this was due to inadequate healing time between 26. 2 mile runs and therefore over training, especially for a 59 yr. old.  The runner was mentally fatigued and had to force himself to complete the goal and enter the 5th marathon.
Disappointingly, at least for this case study subject, endurance commencing the 60th decade of his life was not lasting.  The subject, "burnt out" after the 5th marathon, "slacked off," keeping the promise to himself as motivation to keep pushing over the 2,000 mile 5 marathon commitment.  He merely ran a 2 mile route once a week, some weeks none.  He did get in one 4 mile run with relatives.  When he was urged to run 2.5 miles again, this time almost 3 months removed from the last marathon date, he managed to do so.  However for the next 2 days his thighs felt tight.  This however, is not due to chronic overuse but inactivity of the muscles!  Then the subject did another 2 mile run and felt fatigued in the hot afternoon sun, stopping half way for a short rest. 
    This demonstrates that 2 years of training to do 5 marathons just prior to 60 does not result in lasting physical stamina and conditioning.  The runner finds himself back to his age baseline level of physical conditioning and with the energy level and sense of well-being as any average 60-year old.  The shocking loss of rapid run conditioning motivates the subject to "get back into shape" and run/exercise more regularly once again.