Possible Marathon at 60 - Should I Do It?

by Kerry
(Tennant Creek, NT, Australia)

I'm 60 next year and have not done any running for a few years but have completed two half marathons, one in the 1980s and one about 8-10 years ago.

I only walk 3-5 kms a day with my dogs and swim 1 km 5 times a week and practice yoga daily for 10-15 minutes. I work full-time as a teacher in a remote indigenous community and will be retiring to owner build a house in a couple of years.

I still have a wish to complete a marathon and would like your advice on whether I can do it.

I am 167cm tall and weigh 67 kg.

possible marathon at age 60

I am fit and healthy with no health issues except asthma for which I use a preventative steroid inhaler daily. If running a marathon is possible what training would you advise and over what period prior to a race?

I do not want to suffer unduly and am well disciplined but do not want to embark on something that may have negative effects on my current good health. What would you advise?


Answer by Dominique:
Hi Kerry,
Thanks for your question about possibly running a marathon.

Running a marathon is possible for any healthy individual. I know people older than 60 who have done marathons. And beyond. Two running mates have run 100 miles and they do other shorter, but still crazy, distances very regularly.

I'll break my answer down in a few parts:

1. How unhealthy is running a marathon
2. Possible pathway to a marathon

How Unhealthy is Running a Marathon

Let's be clear. Marathon training is very demanding. And, let's face it, there is something unnatural about running a distance that long, reason why many people struggle towards the end. It takes a while to really properly condition our bodies to run a marathon.

From a base of zero running it's my opinion that it takes a couple of years of consistent training to get really ready to run a marathon.

However, if the goal is to finish, you are happy for it to last longer and you are happy to take a run/walk approach both in the marathon and in training then you could be ready for a marathon significantly faster.

possible marathon at age 60
The hardest part about running a marathon is getting to the starting line. The training is time consuming and quite a few people get injured along the way because they do not take enough time to get ready.

A recent conversation with a 58-year-old colleague was along similar line: training was really tough and he wish he had done it when he was a bit younger.

So, it is not a completely risk-free activity. You could have some setbacks along the way. But I guess with all the challenges we set ourselves, there is always the chance that we don't make it or get disappointed. But isn't that part of the fun and the challenge as well?

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. And it would be awesome if you'd be able to be this success story to family and kids you are teaching about what can be achieved when you set yourself a goal and work hard and diligently towards its completion.

Possible Pathway to a Marathon

What I would advise you to do is to first train up for shorter distances. Get used to a running routine again with running 3-4 times a week. Do a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon. 8-10 years have passed.

Build up your confidence with getting ready for these distances.

Maybe take 3 months for a 5k.
Another 3 months for a 10k.
Then 3-6 months for a half marathon.

See how easy/hard it is to get yourself trained up for these distances. Up to the half marathon, your training is considerably lower risk.

Once you have got your half marathon completed you can better evaluate whether you want to go through the rigour of marathon training.

How well is your body dealing with 90 - 120 minute long runs? How much harder will it be if you have to extend that to 150 - 180 minute runs? Etc.

You'll know much more, once you have done your half marathon.

And don't think: "Geez, that's going to take too long. I don't want to do that." Just think of the benefits you will get out of this approach. You are already pretty active, but the additional running will make you fitter and stronger. Try to keep up alternative activities. I like the fact you are doing yoga and swimming. Adding strength training to your routine would be a great idea as well.

Of course, when embarking on a strenuous exercise program, make sure to check with your doctor.

A few pages that I encourage you to read:

Increasing mileage safely

Cross Training for Runners

Hope this helps.
Kind regards,

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