Running a marathon is one of the toughest athletic sports any person can ever undertake. Whether it’s 3k, 5k, or even one of many ultramarathons in Australia, each one is a supreme test of endurance and stamina. Even though many marathons see people of various younger ages participate, it begs to ask, can seniors make the run themselves?
Senior marathon runners from Australia
Some of these elderly people in Australia have become inspirations for undertaking marathons at their age.
Although he had undertaken 25 marathons in his younger years, Bateman’s Bay, NSW native Peter Counsell, 65, undertook the 2022 Everest Marathon in Nepal. He had spent 40 years travelling to the country as trek guide and hiker, but discovered the Marathon during a trip in 2018. The event is held every May 29 to commemorate Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic climb of the Everest summit in May 1953.
Preparing for the full marathon itself is no joke, requiring 12 days’ trekking through the Himalayas to the Everest Base Camp to acclimatise with the thin oxygen levels up there. The Base Camp will be the starting line for a 42-kilometre run down Khumbu Valley. Counsell was one of three Australian runners for the 42k, but ranked the highest among them at No.71; Lee Holmes ranked No.73 and Lachlan Fraser was last at No.146.
NSW’s Abdon Ulloa, 84, started marathon running in his mid-40s and has logged 75 marathons so far, plus a countless wave of half-marathons. He is also the only parkrun participant in Menai, Sydney, at least 80 years old, and has been running every Saturday morning for the past three years.
Preparation for a marathon
Undertaking a marathon is not as simple as donning up a pair of running shoes and being on your way fast. This is especially true for seniors because of the sudden pressures on the body in later years. There are a number of steps to be done which can ensure a senior can be durable for a marathon.
Undergo a full checkup with your doctor to firmly identify if your body is in any condition for a marathon. The information will also delve on what is needed to help build up your endurance and stamina and the status of your bones to account for the possibility of slip and fall which may trigger a fracture. The checkup is critical even if you are in good health going in, but have been mostly on a sedentary lifestyle.
Training for a marathon will have a number of critical elements included. Stretching is essential for before and after the run, as this enables the muscle fibres and joints to be gradually tested for elasticity while preparing your mental capacity for the run.
Stretching after the run may prevent muscle soreness. Some running experts stress that building up the heart and lungs is vital to establishing the stamina needed to last the race. A tempo can test your body during a session – for example, a set of ten-minute runs coupled by five-minute walks in between.
Time versus distance
When undergoing runs as part of marathon training, it is often advised to limit the training runs to no more than three to four hours, as anything longer may wear down the body.
Recovery periods will be essential to help the body rebuild its cohesion after every run. As such, runs may be scheduled every other day, with other exercises to be done in the interval, including yoga, swimming, and cycling. Sleep should not be discounted as well; you still need at least six to eight hours of sleep to be refreshed for the next day.
Any long-term marathon training projects for seniors should be stretched out over several months instead of weeks, as getting into optimum shape for people at least 50-60 years old may need much more effort than was possible in younger years, such as in the 20s-30s.
Your nutrition and diet plan will need shoring up to provide the ample fuel for powering your run. Some sports nutrition planners recommend that carbs, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats, and quinoa can be good sources – avoid bread, white rice, and white potatoes. Fibre may be sourced from fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens.
Micronutrients protect the body from the stress of exercise in various ways.
Iron is needed to circulate oxygen around the body; low iron intake leads to palpitations or shortness of breath. Iron-rich foods include dark leafy vegetables, dried fruit, red meat, and liver. Calcium through milk, yoghurt and cheese also aids in the body’s easy absorption of iron, in addition to reinforcing the bones. Vitamin D regulates the body’s calcium and phosphate levels; while sunlight is an ample source, you can still have your fix through eggs, cereal and oily fish. Brown rice, lean meat, fish, and wholegrain bread, among others, contain magnesium, which adds to bone health and also converts food into energy.
Vitamin B12 is important to nerve, muscle, and blood cells while preventing anaemia. Good sources include meat and seafood such as salmon, oysters, cod, and clams, plus cheese and eggs.
Zinc aids in immune functions, tissue healing, and to protect the bones’ mineral density. Cereals, dairy products like milk and cheese can be ample sources.
However, if you need supplements to obtain the above micronutrients, consult your doctor, as some products may not be suitable.
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