Masters runners are often some of the fittest, most athletic runners in any event. Their looks can often be deceiving, as masters running encompasses a wide range of ages and abilities.
What is a Masters Runner?
Simply put, a masters runner is any runner age 40 and over. This category of older runners is often used in road races as an age group label for both male and female participants.
In 1966, David Pain first used the term “Masters Athletics” when he started organizing “Masters Miles” events, which were open to anyone over the age of 40. These events gained so much popularity that the masters category was soon officially introduced in 1969. In 1975, it was first used at the World Masters Championship.
Masters runners are also referred to as veteran runners, and much more informally: older runners. However, many of these “older runners” are not actually that old.
How old do you have to be to be a masters runner?
Participating in a race at age 40 or older qualifies you as a masters runner.
What age is a Grand Masters Runner?
Grand Masters Runners are typically those aged 60 and older, although some races consider age 50 or 55 to be a grand master. Grand Masters is essentially just a subcategory of the masters, and a way to further define the age groups.
Masters Running in Track and Field
In track and field, masters running is slightly different, and encompasses all runners age 35 and older. The competition is broken down into five year age brackets, starting at age 35, with both men and women competing separately.
You can find a list of all upcoming masters track and field events on the events portion of the USA Track & Field website.
9 Tips for Masters Runners
Whether you’re excited to be competing at the masters running level, or are a bit bummed to have reached this new milestone, it is certainly still possible to accomplish new goals and compete at your own personal best. Here are some tips for masters runners to make this the best year yet.
Set realistic goals
Regardless of whether you’re a masters runner or in any other age bracket, it’s important to always set realistic goals. Shooting for the stars and aiming high might give you a boost of motivation, but when the goals are so wild that achieving them is unrealistic, you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment.
Take note of your current fitness level and use that as a baseline when creating goals for upcoming races. Find a balance between pushing yourself to achieve new things in a timeframe that is realistic.
Listen to your body
Once you begin competing at a masters running level, it becomes even more important to listen to your body. As the body ages, training load or intensity might need to be adjusted to allow adequate recovery time.
If you’re finding yourself constantly in pain, tired, or struggling to keep up, it might be time to evaluate your training and make slight adjustments to provide more time for recovery or strength training.
Treat muscle imbalances
Muscle imbalances can wreak havoc on any runner, but especially masters runners. To stay strong and healthy with running, it’s important to regularly check for muscle imbalances and treat those that inevitably occur.
Make a point of completing regular checks, and include some single side and muscle isolation exercises in your weekly strength training routines.
Incorporate strength training
Strength training is critical for any runner, and becomes even more important as you age. Strength training helps build bone density, improve flexibility and protect joints and ligaments from damage and strain.
As a masters runner, it important to allocate time in your training for strength training on a weekly basis, at a minimum. Designate at least one full day each week to complete strength workouts, and consider incorporating a set of exercises every few days.
Warm up and cool down
Oftentimes, muscles and joints feel stiffer as you age and become less resilient with tough training. Warming up and cooling down before and after a run allows time for the body to adjust to activity and helps prevent injury from activity.
Although it is certainly possible to accomplish new goals as you get further into masters running, it’s important to balance training with easy runs and more intense workouts. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or are in pain of at any time, lower the intensity.
Aim to stay comfortable during your runs. Never push your body to the point of pain or exhaustion, and take note of how you feel before, during and after your workouts. Running as you age should help you feel healthy and vibrant, not exhaust you.
Use masters to your advantage
As you continue running with age, it’s common to find less and less competition. Most masters and grand masters age groups contain significantly less participants than the younger brackets. If you’re hoping to place, it will be much easier to do so in the masters brackets.
Take rest and recovery seriously
In order to continue training and feeling your best, it’s important to prioritize rest and recovery. Take rest days seriously and never skip them in order to fit in an extra workout.
After runs and workouts, take the time to stretch and cool down. Doing so will help the body reset and build strength, mobility and flexibility to avoid injury and overtraining in the long run.
Break when needed
Sometimes life gets in the way – whether it’s just a busy season or a period of illness and/or injury, it’s hard to predict exactly what’s going to come your way. When running starts to feel difficult, it might be a sign that you need a break.
Listen to your body and take breaks when they’re needed. It might be difficult to take a step back in the thick of training, but doing so will allow you to continue running for many years to come without burning out.
Masters runners are some of the most inspirational, experienced and motivated runners. Making a point to fully embrace this season of running, whether it is new or well-established, can pay off in so many ways. Cheers to many years of masters running!