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What The Fartlek Does Age Have To Do With It Anyway?

Di Brander

Nov 8, 2023

Max the dog took me for a walk, and I met a neighbour who asked me if I still run. When I replied that I did, she went on to talk about a lady she sees running regularly. She described her exact route and commented “She’s not young. She must be in her sixties.”  I knew who she meant. I’ve seen that same woman regularly and think good on her, just as I do when I see any runner. She’s getting out there and loving life via running. I get it. I totally get it. What I don’t get is, what age has to do with it.


There’s usually a shelf life for professional athletes. They’ve likely been training and competing since their adolescence, teenage years, or early twenties, and they eventually pass their prime age for competing professionally. But, for recreational runners like most of us – what the fartlek does age have to do with it?


I wrote into the Fartlek Family WhatsApp group chat about this as I was stunned. Not only did my neighbour have a comment to make about the woman’s age, but she also professed that this woman was “obsessed.” She said, “She never stops. All she does is run and walk the dog.” I responded that she sounded like me. I run most days. I also walk my dog. However, I am apparently “normal” while the other woman is “possessed by running” and “must have mental health issues.” Again, I don’t see the distinction other than being twenty years younger, which leads us back to the age question.


I started running five years ago at the age of 35. At 40, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I love getting older and I fully intend to be “possessed by running” at 60 and beyond. I may have passed my peak by then, but if my legs continue to work, I’ll be running. When I can’t run, I’ll walk. I won’t stop unless I’m forced to stop. There is no downside to this so far as I can see. Running and/or walking is good for your overall health and fitness. Exercise, whether gentle or vigorous, can be beneficial to your physical body and is excellent for mental health. If - and it’s a very big if because you can’t diagnose mental health issues in a person just because they run –mental health issues are prevalent in the lady in question, then running is, without doubt, one of the best things she can do. It should be applauded rather than criticised. Of course, all that fresh air is a bonus too.


Unless you’re a runner, you probably won’t understand. But it’s not an exclusive club - anyone is welcome. Some people don’t start til later in life. That’s great. It’s never too late! Everyone knows someone in the twilight of their life who is getting out there and running parkrun regularly, or even still smashing out marathons. Some people are still chasing down records later in life, others just enjoy getting out there to keep their body and mind fit. Some people choose not to join the band of merry runners and that’s up to them. If they don’t like running or don’t want to try, fair enough, but I’d happily bet that if the running shoe was on the other foot, runners would not criticise non-runners for not running. Why then, do some people feel the need to criticise those of us out there doing it, for reasons of age or anything else? I guess the point is, it doesn't matter. If other people don’t like it, fine. If you run and you like it – fan-blooming-tastic. It’s your body, it’s your health, it’s your freedom, it’s your life. You only get one run at it. Forget about age and other people’s opinions and make it a bloody good run!

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