Many of us think advancing of years may be the time when we begin to take it “easy” and take stock of our lives. Perhaps we work a little less, spend more time with the family, and slow down a bit. Especially when it comes to our physical activity; many of us switch from snowboarding to sipping cocoa in the lodge, from surfing to swimming, running to walking.
Not for some. Pam Medford, 57, seems headed in the opposite direction. A San Diego resident and recreational runner since her 20′s, she now competes regularly in events in and outside San Diego. Her first events were 5Ks and then she progressed to 10Ks, followed by marathons. “Exercise opens the path for so many other things,” Pam comments. “It gives you such an empowering feeling.” Now, Medford participates in 2-3 events a month and has completed an astounding 250 marathons and 40 triathlons!
And she is not alone. Greater participation of older athletes has been growing in many competitive events since the 90′s. The greatest growth for triathlon participants has been in the middle-aged sector, according to the USA Triathlon data.1 The highest age division for marathon runners used to be 60+; now it is often 90+, according to a recent issue of Running Times.2
More and more active seniors are joining the ranks of the “older” athlete, including one notable example at Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego, Inc.. At age 75, it’s hard to believe Site Coordinator Martha Walker has the any energy left for her athletic pursuits after a long day at work. “I love Meals-on-Wheels,” says Walker. “I’d rather do this than go on vacation!” She is effusive about her work, her commitment of over 15 years and the people in the organization. However, it’s clear her energy and passion does not stop with her work, as Martha makes time for running nearly every day.
And this routine has been a part of Martha’s life for many years now. However, she wasn’t always a runner and was in her fifties when she began her sport. Seeing an ad for a run across the Coronado bridge inspired the journey. Now, some years later, if there’s a day when she can’t make time for a run, she misses it. “I’ve run for so many years, it’s sort of second nature,” says Walker.
Always setting new goals, Martha completes in the (Lake) Tahoe Trifecta, an event in which participants run three half marathons over three consecutive days. Additionally, Martha intends to compete in two of the nine Dirt Dog races, a collection of running events held across San Diego. She is even toying with the idea of running another marathon in honor of her upcoming birthday!
The satisfaction many athletes receive at the completion of a race also seems to be a key factor in their overall motivation. Both Medford and Walker enjoy the sense of accomplishment they get with each completed race and how exercise relieves stress. Medford explained that her time spent running gives her an inner peace that lets her feel she can go on with her day. She believes everyone should have that peace, whether they get it through weight-lifting, dancing, swimming, tennis, or just a nice walk. Medford’s advice to others hoping to start a regimen: find something you really enjoy and stick with it.
And eventually, perhaps, you’ll be competing alongside these ladies.
1. USA Triathlon, “Triathlon Participation, Growth Trends and Demographics.” June 2011 http://www.usatriathlon.org/about-usat/demographics
2. Chalufour, Marc. “How Demographics Are Affecting the Racing Scene.” http://runningtimes.com/Print.aspx?articleID=20969, as featured in the October 2010 issue of Running Times Magazine