It seems a little weird that the morning I woke up and decided to write my first blog (the day being 17 December 2016) I found out that the term ‘BLOG’ originated from the term “weblog” which was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. Before commencing my blogging journey I thought I’d just check out where the term derived – it was basically created to describe ‘logging’ the web.
What made me decide today was the day? I have just registered to run the New York Marathon on 5 November 2017. All going to plan it will be my first marathon and at 61 I thought it might be interesting and hopefully motivating for other mature runners or would be runners (including some of my clients) to the share the experience. Over time I also want to share my interests in other areas including osteoporosis and other physical changes that occur as we age and what we can do to minimise the negative effects of these changes.
So what lead to my entering the NY marathon? While I did do a few triathlons in my 30’s I was never a good runner. It was my worst leg and it was disheartening to do reasonably well in the swim and cycling events only to watch many of my age group competitors slip past me so easily in the run. Until September 2015 I had not run (other than walk/jogging with my dogs) for over 25 years. As some of you will know – I regularly fly (every 4-5 weeks) to Melbourne to visit my frail Mum who is in a nursing home in Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula. I stay with my sister in law Saraha who lives 5 minutes from the nursing home.
In September last year Saraha mentioned she was going to enter the ‘Arthurs Seat Challenge’ on 4 November. This involved a 6.7 walk/run/climb from Rosebud Pier up to to Arthur’s Seat (251m elevation above sea level). It is an annual event that supports the ‘Fit to Drive’ program for young adult drivers in high schools on the Mornington Peninsula. I thought this was great and offered to be there that weekend to support her. On the flight home to Canberra the thought occurred to me that I should do this event myself. I got off the plane – rang Saraha – told her I was going to register for the event myself – and when I got home from the airport I went for my first serious walk/jog up to Mount Painter and back (7km). It actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be and I am convinced that several years of clinical Pilates had something to do with this.
I did run the Arthur’s Seat Challenge and to my surprise and delight I came 3rd in my age group. I was hooked! I then entered the Canberra 10km ‘Stromlo Lightening Strike’ a few weeks later on 22 November. (This is an annual event hosted by Robert de Castella). I came first in my age group in this event and my ASAT (age and gender adjusted time) overall ranking was 5th. Now I was really hooked! Apparently I am not alone – according to a statistical study of the NYC Marathon from 1980 – 2009 done at the Sports Science Department at University of Burgundy in France, there has been a surge in master runners (over 60) taking up half and full marathons. It is the fastest growing age group of runners. Interestingly, there was a decline in runners under 40 over this period doing the NY marathon.
It was my friend, Elspeth, who then got me interested in the local Parkrun at Ginninderra. Parkruns are free, timed, weekly 5 km runs all over the world. We are very lucky in Canberra to have four venues – Tuggeranong, Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Ginninderra and Gungahlin. I just love them and over the past year I have met some great people at various venues doing them. I, in turn, got Saraha involved in the Hastings Parkrun on the Mornington and she has now participated in more Parkruns than me. We do them together once a month or so when I am visiting Mum.
Some weeks my run feels very ordinary. Today, for example, I certainly felt the accumulated effects of Christmas drinks last night and over the previous week and definitely the effects of too much refined sugar in treats such as shortbread, Christmas cake and the abundant chocolate available at this time of year. I did win my age group despite a slower time and the fact there weren’t many runners in my age group. There are some very competitive runners in my age group in Canberra (and Melbourne) that don’t run my Parkrun – if they did they would fly past me and finish 5km in under 22-23 minutes. What I have learned to focus on is the ‘age graded score’. My score this week was 74.86%.
Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score (a percentage). This score allows you to compare your personal performance against other people’s performances even though they might be a different age and a different sex to you – the higher the score the better the performance. It doesn’t, however, account for variations in conditions such as weather and terrain. It is inevitable that we all slow down a little as we grow older and it can be quite disheartening for veteran runners to start running PW’s (personal worst times) so the age graded score can really put each individual performance into perspective.
During my run this morning I felt what I would describe as hypoglycaemia – a drop in energy due to a deficiency in glucose in the blood stream. A bit unusual or unexpected in such a short run I know. I have not experienced this feeling since my triathlon days when it was not uncommon at all and a result of the ridiculously high carbohydrate diet that was recommended at the time – which I followed religiously. Carbohydrate loading with great bowls of pasta and white rice was the ‘thing to do’ for endurance athletes. Much of this recommendation (still followed by many today) was based on less than rigorous research by Ancel Benjamin Keys. He was an American scientist who studied the influence of diet on health and hypothesised that saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy. He was pretty much responsible (in the 50’s) for demonising fat in the diet and promoting complex carbs.
More recent research has indicated that good quality fat found in food such as butter, avocado, macadamia and other nuts, cheese, natural cream, coconut oil and eggs is actually healthy and nutritious. All excess carbs – refined or complex, get converted into fat when eaten. Since I have converted to a higher ‘good’ fat diet I have felt full of energy and can run a half marathon without the sudden loss of energy I used to experience. A few days of refined sugar has already taken its toll. If I am going to run a marathon in less than a year I will have to be more selective about what I eat even over festive occasions. (The odd glass of gin or champagne will remain a treat especially if consumed with some great cheese!)
If anyone is interested in learning more about a higher fat ketogenic diet (where fat rather than glucose becomes the bodies source of energy) visit the website of Sports Physician Peter Brukner and read ‘So you want to know about Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) …’ he gives a great history of the Western Diet with some relevant links at the end. It is quite a controversial area at present – possibly because there are so many vested interests in maintaining the notion of ‘high carbohydrate low fat diet’ being good for us.