Tips for Senior Marathon Runners

-By Jess Walter

The number of senior citizens running marathons is growing. Some of these runners have been running all their lives and can’t fathom doing anything else. Others have taken up running later in life and have gotten attracted to the health benefits running provides. Either way, there’s no reason you can’t run a marathon in your 60s, 70s, or even older.

Senior Marathon Runners

Here are some examples of some seriously inspiring senior athletes, what’s to say you can’t be next?

  • Joe Kregal is 70 years old and runs road races in which he is often the only one in his age group. So, he competes with all the runners in the race, considering himself victorious if he finishes in the top 20%. His advice to senior runners? “Don’t quit when people tell you to.”
  • Margaret Davis ran her first marathon when she was 79. At age 80, she climbed Mount Whitney. She says her favorite part about running marathons now is that when the younger runners hear that she’s 85, they proclaim her a hero.
  • Jeff Galloway, an American Olympian, trains people over 50 to run their first marathon. He estimates that someone who doesn’t get up off the couch until they’re in their 50s should be ready to run their first marathon in a year.

If you’re considerably older than 50 you might give it a bit more time, but that’s a guideline. So, let’s get started! Here are a few tips to help you get ready.

Listen to Your Body

The aches, pains, and twinges will become more pronounced, more frequent,
and longer-lasting. If you’ve had an injury that precludes running, try
swimming or biking instead, with your doctor’s okay. Ease back into running when you and your doctor think you’re ready.

Commit to Strength Training

If you are doing strength training in addition to running already, you may want to step it up a notch. If you’re not strength training, add it to your workout. You start losing muscle mass at age 30. By the time you’re 70, you could have lost 30% or more of the muscles mass you had in your youth. Running won’t help this, but strength training will.

Change Up Your Training Routine

As you age, you may not be able to train as frequently or as diligently as you once did. You may need to alternate running with different forms of exercise. You don’t have the same body you had 30 years ago, so you shouldn’t be training in the same way. The most important element of setting training routines is to be realistic. Know your strengths and weaknesses, so you can gradually improve.

Work with a Coach

If you’re having trouble adapting your training routine, hire a running coach. It can be challenging to try to alter your routine on your own, and the older you get, the more careful you need to be when trying new things. Getting help with your new training regimen is a smart idea.

Don’t listen to anyone who says you’re too old – even if it’s you. Even if you’re running half and walking half of the race, getting out there and moving is the key. Just keep running.

Related Posts

Train Smart, Run Forever: Interview with Bill Pierce and Scott Murr

Masters Runners: Body Changes and Injury Prevention Strategies

The Aging Marathoner – How Getting Older Affects Your Running

3 Responses to Tips for Senior Marathon Runners

  1. Steve Flinn July 8, 2021 at 9:00 am #

    I am training for a half marathon Oct 2th / 11 weeks out…a past runner, male, now age 70. I have run full and half marathons in the past…started running at age 56.

    several questions… I started running internal running ( run/walk) about 5 years age. My goal for the half marathon is 3 hrs / 14 min miles. I have not run or worked out in about 2 years…started back July 1st. Presently achieving my goal, for 2 miles.

    How should I train to build my miles up in the next 11 weeks?

    I am running 2:30 and walking 2:30. I have thought I would add a mile every week…presently thinking of running 5-6 days a week. Do you think this is a feasible schedule?

    What should I be doing or not be doing?

  2. Loren October 16, 2021 at 6:21 pm #

    I just googled marathons after 70 today. Also today I ran my 90th marathon or ultra. I am 69 and hope to complete 100 while still 70. I turn 70 in August. So I have somewhere between 1 year and 1 year, 9 months to do my final 10. I ran today seriously under trained. (I do know how to prepare for a marathon or ultra.). So I set out to run the first lap then decide if I could continue. It was no problem. I haven’t run more than 11 miles in a single run for a year. But, my body just knew what to do. I know about muscle memory in other sports. But, now I am curious about things akin to muscle memory but with regard to use of oxygen, use of deep stored glycogen, etc. The bottom line is that I am both grateful and curious. I seen no reason why I would want to or need to slow down in the near future. Rather I recently became a yoga teacher. And, I am enjoying this post professional phase of life. But I remain open to what others have to say, both from literature and research as well what others have learned experientially.

  3. Andrew Turner March 16, 2024 at 12:26 am #

    If you run all the time how can you possibly lose muscle mass from those muscles needed for running. Also as most training is based on specificity why on earth train muscles that are not used in running. I am not interesd in overall body health I am only interestd in running and would really like so sensible answers to my quesion!

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