Have you ever wondered, after hearing that an old friend is suddenly running marathons or climbing mountains, “Could I do that?”
The answer, more often than not, is yes. But achieving an athletic dream in your 50s or beyond requires planning, preparation and patience.
Chicago-area running coach Brendan Cournane, 58, is in the midst of his busiest time of the year, prepping several dozen runners in individual and group sessions for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7. “People who start running late in life are actually doing it at a great time because they’re established in their careers and their kids are either older or out of the house,” says Cournane, who works with a lot of first-time long-distance runners in their 40s and 50s and older. “They have more time to return to their athletic dreams and be fit.”
Mary Beth Sammons, 55, a public relations manager at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago, took up running at age 50 after a series of personal losses. “I had four friends who died before that birthday,” she says, “and I decided to make mine a celebration of the fact that I was still alive.” She has competed in half-marathons and triathlons, training with Cournane and running with her 25-year-old son, one of her three grown children. “It’s been a great thing for us,” she says, “because we’ve found something my son can share with me. And he found an app for me to track my progress.”