Rich Roll’s “Finding Ultra” (I highly recommend it!) and Scott Jurek’s new book “Eat and Run” (purchased, but not yet started!) are both written by endurance athletes who have reached the half marathon point or headed down the back half.
Throw the ever running (and writing) Dean Karnazes and the ever-winning Lance Armstrong into this mix of greying endurance athletes and you end up with a relatively old set of guys. These dudes would have long since hung up their jerseys if they were playing football, hockey or basketball.
In fact, if you average up their years, you end up with an average age of nearly 44 years! Karno is 50 this year. Rich will be 46, Lance 41, and Scott a relatively spring chicken at 37 (and a half!). The late Micah True was 52 and still kicking up dust in the mountains a short few months ago. My friend John Teeples ran a 9th place Badwater this year at age 47.
At 45, some guys buy sports cars. Other guys trade in starter wives for younger models. Other guys just run! Or bike! Or swim! These are probably smarter and safer ways to spend time than the sports car or trophy wife!
Why are older guys still seeing success in a business that would dictate victory to younger people?
I have my opinions.
First, I think these middle agers have conquered the mental aspects of endurance racing. They have been in the pain cave before, learned from it and survived to fight another day. They know pain comes and goes. These guys keep moving, make friends with pain and bide their time.
Secondly, they have the patience and wisdom required to train and race using smarts versus body. I doubt any of them “get out too fast” for a race or “miss the nutrition or hydration window”. Smart racing and training comes from experience and knowledge about themselves gained over decades of self-experimenting.
Thirdly, I don’t think they take themselves so seriously as to cause themselves mental stress and drama that drains energy during peak performance loads.
Finally, I think a big difference is the big black competitive streak running down their backs that only gets wider and darker with age. These guys are fierce individualists that still want to beat themselves and pass the guy in front of them.
As one of those guys somewhere between 13.1-26.2 miles on the age meter, I understand. Though not in the same club as the gents I mentioned here, I know the pain, have the experience and still the competitive fight to try to pass whoever is ahead of me.
“Hey middle age! Yeah, I am talking to you!!!!”