As the year closes, I’m taking some time to acknowledge the talent and hard work of senior women runners. There are more than a dozen new national or world age group records and many more pending.

There are those of us who put our passion aside for many years as family and career took precedence. I find this is particularly true for senior women runners. Some learn later in life that there is a new path out there, and it’s a running trail. They find an unknown talent lurking within.

These and many other reasons may account for women who come to running in their later years. It may also account for the surge in new records set and a higher level of competition among senior women runners.

Personally, I’ve run recreationally since my early 30s, but didn’t find the time nor did I develop the mental toughness to take on distance running until my late 40s and early 50s.

I look at women in my age group (age groups are established in five-year increments) and beyond and see that there is more that can be accomplished.

Some of the most astonishing recent records are set by women in age groups 70 years and higher. What motivates senior women with the commitment to perform at the top of the field?

Looking through some of their interviews and quotes, I found several factors that are most frequently mentioned:

Joy

Tough as some training days may be, running is still fun for them. Women runners from age 60 through 100+ years comment on the joy of it.

Louisiana native Julia Hawkins began competitive track just two years ago. After setting a record for a shorter distance, she told the press she thought it would be fun to run 100 meters after turning 100 years. So, she did, and set one more age group record.

It’s imperative that you take time for yourself. In an earlier interview with the Institute on Aging, world recordholder and marathoner Jeannie Rice, age 70, says we must take time to recharge and unwind from the everyday stress that comes with just living. For her, that’s when she is running.

Competition

Many senior women runners are finding their competitive spirit later in life. A number of national record holders began running well into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

Ginette Bedard began running at age 69 and set age group records that have since been broken. Now age 85, Bedard was the oldest woman to finish the New York City Marathon in 2018.

Rice, age 70, loves the competition. She discovered she had a talent for running in her 30s when she wanted to lose a few pounds. She hasn’t stopped running and competing since. Her Chicago Marathon time this year set a world record for the women’s 70-74 age group.

Maintaining Independence – Physically and Emotionally

Ginette Bedard, after running the New York City Marathon this year, told Runners World she first thought she wasn’t qualified to run a marathon. Then a friend told her, “What do you care?” That gave her an incentive. She continues to run 10 miles or more most days.

A lack of concern with the opinion of others who question why you are running, or if you should run, coupled with the desire to maintain a healthy body and encourage others to do the same, to be physically independent for as long as possible, are all strong motivators.

A Love of the Outdoors

As she was being interviewed on video, Julia Hawkins took ESPN on a walk though her beautifully designed garden and talked about her most loved plants. Ginette Bedard is a gardener as well, growing her own vegetables and cutting her own lawn.

Nearly all senior women runners enjoy the early dawn hours to run either solo or with friends or a training group, greeting the day with the sun.

We are not all runners and most of us who are don’t run at this level. Still, our interest in health and wellness and the sheer joy we take from life can come from opening up to our private passion.

What is your private passion? Are there activities you particularly enjoy? Please share what motivates you and join the conversation!

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