First Marathon for Older Runner

by Ron

first marathon for older runner

I am 68 years old. I have been a runner for 33 years doing mostly 5 and 10K race with one half marathon. I usually run a 5K in 25-27 minutes and the 10K in 50-55.

I am retiring next month and for the first time in my life I will have the time to train for a marathon.

Is this reasonable and what extra precautions should I take due to my age?

Answer by Dominique:

Hello Ron,
First of all, I must say, isn't it wonderful that you're considering this new challenge? It certainly speaks to your inspiring dedication and spirit! Now, to your question, let's cover it as follows:

1. Visit the Doctor
2. Consistency is Key
3. Training Progression
4. Marathon Training
5. Cross-Training, Strength Training and Run/Walks

Visit the Doctor

first marathon for older runner
The very first point of action must be to schedule a visit to your doctor or medical practitioner.

Running has been a part of your life for longer than some have been alive – that's impressive!

And your 5k and 10k racing times show you have some decent speed in you. However, as we age, our bodies change in many ways, and a thorough check-up is critical before you embark on this new venture.

It's essential to make sure your body can handle the stress of marathon training and running 26.2 miles non-stop.

Consistency is Key

Marathon training is all about showing up. Day after day, week after week, month after month. I am not saying you need to start training seven days a week. But you need to maintain a consistent running routine to build your endurance. And you'll need quite a bit of that for the marathon.

It might take a bit longer to recover from workouts at 68, but as long as you listen to your body, take necessary breaks, and maintain a steady running routine, you'll be on your way to marathon readiness. It would be great if you could run four times per week consistently.

Training Progression

first marathon for older runner
Let's now talk about your marathon preparation. You've run 5Ks, 10Ks, and even a a half marathon! That's a fantastic headstart.

So, for this, I am going to assume you are comfortable running a 10k race today.

Rather than immediately moving to the marathon distance, what will be a wise thing to do is to first start preparing for a half marathon.

That will see you ramp up your mileage and get used to running longer distances in your long run. Over time, what would be a fantastic base for marathon training is if you get used to doing a long run of 10 miles or longer.

Marathon Training

Once you have done a successful half marathon and you feel confident with half marathon training, you can progress to marathon training.

It will be challenging. But that's mostly why you want to do it, right? With the right training schedule, you'll be able to manage those long-distance runs and recover appropriately.

Cross-Training, Strength Training and Run/Walks

At your age, running very regularly may pose some issues. You have got a long running career behind you, which should assist greatly when pushing up your mileage.

However, you may run into some issues. Niggles that don't go away. Running injuries that stop you from progressing to higher mileage levels. If that happens, just know there are alternatives out there:

first marathon for older runner
When you find that you are running into some limits in terms of mileage and days of running per week, a good alternative may be to do some cross-training. Examples are the exercise bike, swimming and rowing. They are all great ways to further boost your endurance whilst giving your running muscles a break.

Strength Training
Running demands a lot from your body. A great insurance policy against injuries is to incorporate strength training into your routine. Especially later in life strength training becomes more and more important. We lose muscle mass as we get older. Strength training can help us maintain muscle and strength. Please check out my page on strength training for runners to learn more.

Consider this – completing a marathon doesn't necessarily mean you have to run every single step. And it doesn't necessarily mean you have to run every step in training either. When you find yourself hitting limits on the long run, consider a run/walk training approach. You'll still cover the mileage, but you'll feel less tired doing it.

Ron, changing your mind-set from "Can I do this?" to "Let me prepare well for this" is the first step. I have no doubts in my mind you can do this and that the journey towards your marathon will be challenging but rewarding.

You've spent 33 years running, and now you're contemplating running a marathon. That's a leading example of tenacity and commitment to celebrating your love for the sport. I'm confident you'll be able to pull this off.

Happy retirement and happy running, my friend!

Kind regards and good luck,

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