In part one of this blog (missed it? Catch up here) I spoke with 6 badass master’s athletes about how they train to get faster as a master. In part two we discuss what it takes mentally to get across the finish line. This post gets a bit raw with honesty, and I have to admit it’s a bit comforting to know I’m not the only one trying to figure it all out. Spoiler alert: even pro’s are human.
I’m inspired by the grit, dedication to training and love of the sport shared by these women. I’m left with a full heart and refocused mind, ready to tackle my fall training plan. No matter what your age, pace or experience level I hope you enjoyed this too.
Now, on to the rest of the story...
We all know comparison of ourselves is not constructive, but it is still a reality as one transitions to new phase of life. Have you experience negative self-talk creeping in as master’s runner, either by comparing yourself to others or to your younger self? If so, how have you worked through that?
Jennifer: Negative self-talk is a reality everywhere, in any sport or career or even in motherhood (or not). I have some amazing women friends. My family is super supportive too. I try to keep company with those who are with me when I am up and when I am down. I have also learned that I am not for everyone.
I have not mastered how to not compare myself to my younger self. My goal is to run faster than her. I guess when I look at age-graded charts, I’ve surpassed her but I’m still chasing her down. This was my goal when I turned 40 and thought that it was attainable then, I’ve realized that it may not happen. I’ve had a number of setbacks since I set that goal that I did not anticipate. So I’ve had to loosen the grip on that and I am okay with it. Acceptance of where I am today right now and finding the beauty in just being out there is a huge accomplishment.
Erika: I have to be honest - I am one of those people who believes when I step onto the starting line, that I will win the race. Even if every one of the others are faster than me. I call it blissful ignorance. As for comparing myself to my younger self, I know that I will never run a 54 second 400 meters again. Ever. But, my goal isn't to do that. One of my goals is to run sub 60 in the 400 which (according to the age-grade calculators) would be a way greater effort at my age than running even a 52 second 400! I did 60.79 this spring so I am getting very close. And ultimately, every time I step onto the track to run in a race, I look around and just remember how few people are doing what I am doing. And that gives me so much personal pride. I would NEVER want go back to being a 25 year old runner.
Rebecca: I’m not going to lie, I always wish I was faster and stronger. Some days, I recognize how far I’ve come and feel proud of what I’ve been able to do as Master. Others, I’m looking back on my younger self or at what my peers are doing and wishing I could do more; could be as good or better. But, it’s a slippery slope. I try really hard to be in the moment and give my best for that particular time. I make it a priority to focus on the here and now and to embrace that with each workout. I happen to coach high school girls XC and track and I’m always stressing the importance of a positive mental attitude and approach to running so I try really hard to practice what I preach. It’s not easy, but it helps that I want the same for my athletes that I do for myself.
Laurie: Absolutely, on a regular basis. For a long time I struggled with the thoughts of "you're a 40 something year old woman, why are you doing this" It has helped to see the other masters Volee (and masters friends that aren't Volee) out there kicking ass. I don't feel like the only crazy one, haha. In all seriousness, negative self talk is a roller coaster for me. I have thoughts that I'm not good enough or fast enough. I do talk with a sports psychologist on occasion. She is part of Oiselle, Adrienne Langelier. She is awesome. I read a lot of books. I have found surrounding myself with positive, uplifting runners helps. Finally, I like to make an inspiration board at the start of every training cycle where I write out not only my goals but positive affirmations. I hang it where I can see it everyday.
Donna: This is a excellent question because only recently did I get smacked with reality that I was comparing myself to my younger self and being really critical... I knocked that off right away and with all running has given me I'm really too blessed too be stressed! Basically Being a Masters Runner excites me, it means I get a brand new chance to challenge my longevity!
Catherine: Yes. This for me has usually been when I am running slower than I would like. There is still this part of me that really wants to PB or run a super fast workout time. I know that is more unlikely as I am aging. I sometimes just need to remind myself that I am grateful to be out doing what I love and that it is about embracing that and doing the best I can on the day.
How does your running community embrace master’s runners? How do you connect with a younger runner?
Jennifer: I can’t say that masters running is embraced by my community. My community is not very big on running beyond high school. At most local masters events we do not have a very big showing. I am trying to use my voice to help change this situation. I try to alert my friends of events that are taking place & get more of us to be present.
I’ve connected with a lot of younger runners. I find it is easier to do this through social media. I race a lot against young collegiate runners. I am hoping that this helps them to see that they can continue to run after college & even into their adult years.
Erika: Charlottesville, Virginia is a running town. Every weekend there is a 5k or a 10k that people can do, and the Masters running community is extensive. However, I don't run 5ks. I do Heptathlons, hurdlers, sprints, and jumps. I don't know anyone in my town that trains like I do, so all of my training is done solo. And, anytime I want to run in a meet, I have to travel to do it. That takes a lot of time away from my family as well as a lot of money for travel to get there. Because of this, I have to be very selective with where I compete. I try to do 2-3 meets per season (indoor and outdoor), so about 6 for the year. It makes me sad that this is a sport that you need to have money - and that even for the most elite Masters runners, sponsorship's are few and far between which means if you don't have the means, you can't really compete. I wish that would change. As for connecting with younger runners, I think the best thing I can do for younger female track and field athletes is to let them know that their track career does not have to end after high school or college. And, that they better watch out out for us, because we might just beat them!
Rebecca: I’ve found that the running community is super supportive in regards to Masters runners. There are times when I show up for a race and really feel like I stand out because of my age. Once in a while I’m a little self-conscious about it. But, usually it’s more in my own head than anything. And, really, I find that when we all get in line at the start, the age lines blur and we become one big group of people who are just trying to achieve our best for the day. I happen to be on several running teams, many of them with a lot of younger runners. Age really doesn’t matter when I’m hanging out with these crews. We’re just people who share a passion for running and are excited about connecting and supporting each other. I love that and I find a lot of strength in it.
Laurie: The Tampa Bay area has an awesome running and tri community. Because the weather is nice pretty much all year, we have a lot of active people of all ages. There are many running groups in my area with runners that range from age 10 to 70+. It's pretty awesome. You see a lot of the same people out on training runs and at local races. Everyone is so welcoming.
Donna: The support system coming from all ages is my biggest motivation! We are all so different and that's the best part!
Catherine: My running community is fully welcoming of master’s runners. I run with runners of all ages and feel part of the entire running community. I have been lucky to also be surrounded by amazing masters role models, who demonstrate daily how strong and fit masters runners are. I love running with my younger team mates. Watching them excel is inspirational to me. I think it is really important for athletes of all ages and abilities to recognize how hard we are all working towards our own goals and to focus on our own development rather than comparing ourselves with others
Any other words of wisdom to share?
Jennifer: “Age is a case of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” - Leroy Satchel Paige.
Erika: Not to beat a dead horse, but rest and recovery is the key. Also, set out to live a balanced life. It would be easy to resent the other parts of your life that get in the way of your training. BUT if you re-frame it and think that it is THOSE OTHER THINGS that you have to do that make you better at everything, you will be more content. Winning that "A" race is not the thing that will bring you long term happiness. You have to find the joy in the simple act of RUNNING in that race. Setting time goals of course are important and it feels awesome to run a time that you wanted to run, but don't think that is what it's all about. It about the fact that you are out there.
Rebecca: Age really shouldn’t be a barrier in whatever you are trying to achieve. Sure, you might have to adjust and modify to make it work. But there is no reason you can’t dream as big, if not bigger at age 40 than you did at age 25. My biggest mistake was thinking that a goal was unachievable because of either how far off I was or the fact that I was getting older. What it comes down to is this, if you want it badly enough and you’re willing to do the work, you can make it happen.
Laurie: Stay consistent in your recovery. Listen to your body. Don't be a "wait and see" athlete. If you feel something is not right, get it checked or take off an extra day or two. It has saved me from many setbacks. Finally, embrace rest days. I think many runners have a hard time taking off from running. For some reason we have this mentality that we have to run everyday (myself included for a long time). Once I started looking at rest days as something I've earned, it became much easier to embrace them. I train 6 days a week so on my one rest day I feel like I deserve it because I have worked hard the other days. It gives me a chance to "sleep in", enjoy my morning coffee and get things done that maybe I normally would not.
Donna: I've found You must be a cheerleader for your mind because the mind is what Runs the whole body and spirit!
Catherine: Reminding ourselves that we are still capable of huge things athletically as we age is important. We may not be as fast as we once were, however we are still out there doing what is important to us and what we love. Being grateful for what our bodies allow us to do while focusing on our strength and abilities is key.
Follow the journey of these amazing women at their social media handles