What Is Your Running Age?

Turning 30 is kinda like getting up close and personal with a lion cub. Scary and exhilarating! But admittedly, not as cute.

Today, I turn 30. This means that a lot of my friends are turning 30 this year too, and most of them are freaking out. It would seem that turning 30 is a huge, negative deal – signifying the end of our twenties and everything that goes along with them, like youth and beauty.

But I’m not feeling the panic. Or the depression. Or even the fear that my best years are behind me. I’m actually excited. My twenties were great, don’t get me wrong, but they were also hard. I had some bad relationships, got really sick from Celiac’s disease, and fought to get healthy on my terms. There is no way I’d do that all over again.

In reflecting, I realized in a lot of ways, running gave me a new life. I feel younger now as a 30 year-old runner than I did when I was overweight and out-of-shape at 21. This got me wondering: shouldn’t we measure our age, not by counting the candles on the cake, but in a different way?

Childhood Laura
That’s me, but in a way, I wasn’t even born yet.

When I was 25, I said my first words in the form of a new pair of running shoes and the challenge of a mile. Every running step I took was exhausting. And exhilarating. When I finally was able to run a complete mile without stopping, it was the best feeling. I used to dream about how I’d feel when I was running, and I was finally living it.

Laura in Roma
At 26, or my toddler years as I now like to refer to them.

At 26, I took my first running “steps” when I ran my first 5k. I didn’t know until I finished the race that I’d be able to do it. It was tough. The toughest physical thing I’d done thus far in my life. And I wanted to do it again. I signed up for one the next weekend. And then the next. I was addicted.

At 28, I entered school, in the form of a half marathon. I’d been racing 5ks, 10ks, and 10-milers, but this distance was big. I felt like a kid at my first day of school, and in a way, I was. I was in a school with the coolest students and teachers ever. My fellow runners did (and still do) help me through the training process, commiserate with me about my long runs, and congratulate me on my successes. Finally, I became the person who said “I only ran 5 miles today.” Three years ago, I couldn’t run one.

Laura and Mindy
Now I’m a typical teen – enjoying life!

At 29, I entered the high school of running, when I completed 3 marathons. I remember being scared scared to death at my first marathon but, just like my freshman year of high school, didn’t want anyone to pick me out as the “newbie.” Finishing each one felt like a year of running high school, so that means that I’m now entering my senior year.

In running years, I’m just turning 18.

Running years aren’t about time, but milestones. Running doesn’t care if I’m 30, single, and childless. In running years, aging is a good thing. And in running years, you decide what is old, and when the clock stops. It is entirely subjective and forgiving.

Maybe I’ll turn a year older in running years with every marathon. But maybe, like driving a car, marathons will become less challenging, and new PRs or an ultramarathon will mean another year older.

Turning 21 could be an overseas race. Qualifying for the Olympic Trials (Rosemary? Salty?).

And turning 35 means a lower qualifying time for Boston (that’s in real years and running years)!

We wear our running age proudly. My running age is, in essence, posted on my car, in the form of a 13.1 and 26.2 bumper sticker.

Finally, our running age doesn’t judge other runners. Your 21 could be a 5k, or a running streak of longer than 6 days, something I’ve yet to do.

They say age is just a number, but so are PRs, Olympic Trial qualifying times, and marathon+ distances. Pretty important numbers to us running gals.

But an age number that comes without expectations and never puts us down is our running age.

What’s your running age?

Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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  1. Happy birthday to you!!!! As a runner who just turned 40, I have some exciting news from a decade ahead even — it only gets BETTER from here!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ It sounds crazy but I think with the maturity, dedicated focus and experience that getting older brings us, we have the opportunity to really enjoy our successes even more than we did when we were younger (and sometimes – even run faster than we ever have – that’s how it’s played out for me!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have a fantastic 30th year!!!!! Go get those dreams!!!

  2. Well…at 47 and having been a runner for 15 years, I can tell you that my running age is definitely starting to get older! I figure I have very little time left for PRs at this stage in the game. I’m giving a marathon in two weeks everything I have to try to bring that number down (maybe one last time?). I’ll figure things out from there…

  3. Happy birthday!!! I am in the same boat (almost) as Christie and echo everything she said. My 30s have been fantastic and my running is much better than it ever was in my 20s. I look forward to seeing you make some big breakthroughs in the years to come.

  4. I wanted to share one more fun thing to encourage you! I started running ultra marathons in 2010 and completed my first 100 miler last March. The thing that has most amazed me about ultra runners is how many of them are older than my parents!!! (My Mom and Dad are in their late 50’s!) Among my local ultra runner pals, there are several 50+ year old men who still beat the “young kids” who are in their 30s and 40’s! And, we even have one lady in the group who is 72 and still competing in ultras – while her husband waits at the finish line wish a bouquet of roses calling her “The most amazing woman he’s ever met” even after many years as husband and wife!

    I wish for you a very long and wonderful life of running as you grow up in runner years! ๐Ÿ™‚ I was 35 when I decided to stop sitting on the couch being the busy, overweight Mom of 5. I started with the couch to 5k — and kept going… and haven’t looked back!

    1. What amazing stories! Thanks for sharing Christie and congrats on getting off the couch! I did the same thing at 29. Better late than never, right?!

      1. Exactly! Glad I started living my life again! It feels so good to be alive! I used to say I “put myself up on a shelf” when I became a wife and Mom many years ago so that I could focus all of my energy on being the best wife/Mom I could to my family. I did a good job, but somewhere in there realized I really missed the girl I used to be before I became those things to my family.

        I pulled myself back off the shelf, dusted myself off and found out I was still “me” after all! I could still run and laugh and climb mountains and do all sorts of things that I’d started to think I was never going to do again — and it felt wonderful!!!

        It feels fantastic to be a kid again at 40!!! Good for you, Salty for doing the same at 29!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great analogy! I use a similar one when thinking about my competitive running days. I wasn’t that competitive in HS or college and now that I am exploring track events and competing in other races, I tend to think of myself as a high school runner. I think I’m about a sophomore right now, haha. It’s like I’ve been given another opportunity to explore my running talent now that I’m a little older and a little more wiser.

    Happy 30th, February twin!