So it’s happened, today I am 50 I’ve just come back from an early morning run in my favourite place to mark the day and reflect on the big event.
It’s hard to remember what my younger self would have thought of being 50 – probably that it was old. Yet I don’t feel ‘old’, I feel fit and still kind of young. I’m a runner, having discovered running in my early 40’s as a way of life and this feeling of physical fitness is definitely helping me to stay the young side of 50.
When I was an impressionable teenager I don’t remember any role models that showed me my reality of 50 today. If I think of my mum, my boyfriend’s mums, other females in my life at the time that would have been around 50 – I don’t remember any of them being what I am, feel and see around me today. I may be mis-remembering, but 50 seemed old and sedate back then, I don’t remember anyone middle aged that I knew who ran, or hiked or pushed their bodies in any given sport, that was the remit of the young, not the middle aged. History backs this up to an extent. It wasn’t until 1984 was there a women’s marathon at the Olympic Games. So I was 20 years old before women could run in a marathon at the Olympics…. at 20 I became lost to beer and boys….
Yet now I am a keen runner, I particularly like trail running, being out in the countryside and being immersed in the beauty of the scenery. I run a few times a week, and in between try to fit in spinning, racketball, body pump and yoga. This year I have discovered the joys of sea swimming and Bikram yoga. Doing exercise is not something I do to keep weight off (although of course it helps); it’s something that is such a core of who I am that it almost defines me. It’s what I love and it feels very normal to be doing this amount of exercise. At 50, I am fitter than I was at 30, even possibly than I was at 40.
I understand that the body won’t be doing this forever, that one day I will need to slow down, but I don’t believe that time is now, not at 50. I may have good genes that allow me to do this, or maybe this is quite normal for 50 – why be defined by our ages? I am surrounded by like minded women in their 50’s and beyond, doing the same, running faster and longer than me, running marathons, doing 100k cycle rides, lifting heavier weights and doing way better Bikram postures than me. How wonderful is that – 50 is not about slowing up yet.
Of course I ache after long runs and hard sessions – but I expect my 30 year old self would have ached as well – unfortunately she was too busy doing other things to find out, so I have no comparison. But aching is not confined to the old. At 50 I understand my body better, I recognise when I need to slow down, stretch or lower my miles, or just lounge on the sofa. But stop – no, not yet, not at 50.
I hope this big body of ordinary 50+ sports people are a role model to the next generations and show that slowing up (or growing up) does not have to happen in middle age. I hope that I can at least be part of this set of role models – because that really might be a worthy legacy to consider…