Adventure: Life Above 50

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I should start running at age fifty? What? What are you talking about? That sounds absurd. But I think I’ll take you up on it. In fact, I’ve been getting a head start on this idea over the past ten days. But let me set the table.

My morning run scenery, the Sangre de Christo range. Staring at 7000 feet and going up to about 8100.

Last year I ran a 30k trail race along the US/Mexico border in Big Bend National Park. I didn’t really train for this event thinking I would gut it out, which I did. About three miles in my left knee was on fire and soon felt like someone was inserting a steak knife just under my kneecap. Those nineteen miles were long and very painful. My cycling training really seemed to have no impact on my running skills which was a bit of a surprise.

When I was younger I was quite the running stud. I set my middle school record for the mile and I also did well on the cross country team. We were living part-time in Wyoming where I was running at 8000 feet, so returning to Texas was like running with a bottle of pure oxygen strapped to my back.

But over the years I fell out of love with running. It hurt. And it still hurts but I’m learning how to do it respectfully. One of my issues is that I do even more cycling today than ever before, so my cardio is good. So when I start to run I can fly, at least when it comes to my lung action, but my body can’t keep up. I break down.

Ice, ice baby. Yep, standing on frozen ground. I am running in tights with a lightweight pant over the top. It was 22 degrees when I left the house. Ouch.

So, I’ve started doing very short, intense run/walks. Three miles. That’s it. Half straight up, half straight down. On the way up I keep right below my maximum effort and on the way down I take short strides, landing and springing off the ball of my foot. I do NOT move fast. I practice my technique, stay within safe levels and try to enjoy the scenery. So far so good. I’ve done this four times now and have no pain to show for it. Well, I take that back. My legs were SO sore after the first run. But after three more trials, I’m feeling pretty good.

One thing I like about running is it doesn’t take much stuff or time. Good shoes, clothes to fit the weather and a good pair of sunglasses and you are good to go. I’m not suggesting you do what I do in this case. There are a lot of things to go wrong. The bike is a much safer thing to start, but if you are thinking of dusting off the old waffle soles then just take it very, very slow. And have fun.

Comments 14

  1. For me cycling is better. I am still young, but I am also almost 6.4 ft tall so my knees and my back hurt a lot after jogging. So I decided no more jogging for me, cycling is good enough 🙂 and trekking, never forget about trekking.

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      Oh ya. Hiking, trekking, all good. I love cycling the most too but I have to say there is something about a short run that is so basic I still enjoy it. Although, I’m just under 6-feet but I only weight about 160.

  2. Hi Dan – keep going with the running! I started at 56 when I was clinically obese and riddled with arthritis. I celebrated my 60th birthday by running 525 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean across the Spanish Pyrenees and the following year I ran across Italy. The point is that I’m not a great runner (in fact pretty useless) and a very, very ordinary person albeit with a good pain threshold and sense of determination. Running, however slow, is a fantastically therapeutic for the mind in particular and body too (up to a point!) It’s free more or less except for the extortionate price of the running shoes, it allows you to travel, to meet people and take some photographs and write too.

    By the way I think your site and the podcast (for a European your take on American life is fascinating) is fabarooti – in the summer I ran down the Camino de Santiago in Spain and am making an ezine with words about the experience. Your tip about not necessarily choosing the best picture (quite hard to find one in my case!!) but choosing the picture that tells the story has been invaluable.

    Keep up the good work and keep on inspiring. All the best Andrew

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      Jesus man, that is incredible. Those are serious numbers and serious routes. Kudos to you and your efforts. What I’m doing is not even on the ranking scale. More podcasts on the way. I’ve always felt if those who hate us knew more about the reality of life in the US many of them might not hate us quite as much.

  3. After working as a tradesman for the first 20 years of my working life my knees are now shot. And even the thinking of running makes my knees stab with pain. I think I much prefer to cycle, because its a lot less impact and stress.

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      I think that applies to most of us. However, yesterday, on the way home from the ABQ airport, I passed a guy who had to be at least 80 who was out running. He looked like any step could be his last but he was DOING it.

  4. I miss running. I walk everywhere, but that’s about it. I need to get back in the pool, bring out the jump rope, and get on a bike. I also need to start running again. For a long time I never believed that runner’s high. I was in the Army, and I could gut out the 2 mile pretty fast, but I found it miserable. It wasn’t until much later, post Army, that I went past the 5 mile mark. And damn if it didn’t start feeling good. One of the beat pieces of advice I read (maybe in Outside) was slow for the first mile. Give the body some time to understand what it’s getting into.

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      My motto, slow for all miles. I’m starting at 7000 feet and heading up to the 9000, 10,000 even 12,000+ at times so it’s all slow going for me. But I do agree with the post-run feel. It’s goooooood.

  5. I started running in my 50s. Very slowly, little by little. Walking a kilometer, jogging 500 meters. Now after 4 years I run 9 kilometers. I reserve myself for the 10 km, for some special moment. Riding a motorcycle gives me a feeling of freedom, running gives me the feeling of flying beyond my limits. I’m sorry I didn’t start earlier, so now I’m careful.

    I discovered your blog in a YouTube video about photography, I love your work. Greetings from Montevideo.

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      I love Montevideo! I think about returning on a weekly basis. Such a cool country. I am starting to do bits of running as well, especially during winter when cycling is a real challenge. Never too late to give it a go.

  6. Daniel,

    What an unusual coincidence that you know Montevideo!

    I came to your blog and work through the YouTube channel “Advancing Your Photography” and I became interested in your work. As you mentioned in your message that you know Uruguay I explored in your post and I saw several entries that have to do with Uruguay, the work of Martín Herrera, the documentary about Fray Bentos you did, etc.

    I am not a professional photographer at all, just an architect with many interests so I barely understand what you are talking about but I really enjoy reading your posts and points of view.
    Greetings from the south, it would be great to hear from you when you came to this side.

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      Martin is a very talented dude. You can learn a lot from him and he does more than photography. I love Uruguay. Only been once but will return.

  7. Inspiring! I’m 43 and getting back into running after an injury and years away from “flying” through the woods. Recently have started to feel the itch again and wonder if maybe I’m not too old to do longer distances like I used to dream about when I was younger. RunninG and being in the woods fixes me mentally and I feel like I’ve gotten back in touch with a long lost friend. Thanks for sharing your story!

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      Do it. HOWEVER. Set very small, slow limits at first. Even if you feel great and know you can do more. My first run of this winter was four days ago. 20 minutes, a little over two miles but at 7000 feet and hilly. I felt great. Next day slight soreness. Second day, MAJOR soreness and left heel pain. Two more days of yoga and now I’m good again. But I’m almost 52…..

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