Catherine Watkins, Krista DuChene, Edna Kiplagat, Jo Pavey. The list goes on. These women all have one thing in common: they’re running at the elite level in their 40’s and late 30’s.
Through a dedication to training, passion to run, and dogged determination, these women inspire runners like myself who have come to the sport later in life. Lately, I’ve found it can be easy to let the so-called age factor slip into my mind and cause doubt. I think this is largely because as a competitive person I want to get the most out of myself, and can’t help but but wonder at times what kind of runner I would be if I had started in my twenties. However, I’ve learned that there’s really nothing to gain from this thinking– what’s done is done. More importantly, I’ve come to understand that these doubts aren’t rooted in the truth.
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The histories of women who are running at their best later in life shows they’ve all taken a different path to get to where they are at today.
I look at Catherine Watkins who ran in high-school and then left competitive sport for more than fifteen years before returning at 36. Having followed a similar course, I can relate to that. I left hockey, not running, after my first year at university but still, I relate to her experience in feeling the desire to compete again after such a long break. It can be tempting to look at stats, or see Watkins competing at the Pan Am Games at the age of 43, and assume she has come back with ease, but such is not the case. She has dealt with numerous setbacks due to injury and illness. The key, however, is she has never given up, and has a deep belief in her ability.
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Another Canadian who has proven that age doesn’t define an athlete, is Olympian Krista DuChene. She too has battled through some career-threatening injuries, and come back stronger every time and she just competed at the London Marathon for the first time. DuChene also had three children while building herself into a world-class runner, so outside-the-box thinking, and belief in her ability would be of utmost importance.
Then there’s Edna Kiplagat. She is top on my mind after winning the Boston Marathon this year at the age of 37. She is the biological mother of two children, and another fine example of a woman reaching her athletic potential beyond what was once thought to be the prime year. Also on my radar right now is the veteran Brit, Jo Pavey, who lined up alongside Krista DuChene in the elite field at the London Marathon this past weekend. At the age of 43, she’s still going strong, though like Kiplagat, she didn’t have a hiatus.
From what I’ve read about these women, or heard in interviews, or gleaned from watching their performances, is they all have a love of the sport and passion that drives them. As I head towards my 38th birthday this summer, I’m energized by these women– their spirits, their determination and their relentless pursuit to find out just how good they can be.