It’s never too late to start running. Here’s how 

It doesn’t matter if you take up running in your 50s, 60s or even later. The result is always the same: you’ll improve.

If you’re thinking about how to start running again in your 50s and beyond, you’re probably thinking about the health benefits it provides, from body conditioning to improving your energy levels. What’s often ignored is perhaps the number-one reason why it’s never too late to start over – exercise can improve not just your physical health, but it’s great for mental health as well. That’s because running is a wonderfully social sport, and you’ll meet new friends. Join a group like the Runtogether runners who are nationwide, and experience it all first hand.

A woman in her 50s lacing up her running shoesCredit: Dragon Gordic/Shutterstock

There’s no time like the present to learn how to start running again, because between 50 and 75, our studies show you can maintain aerobic fitness very well, says Dr James Cameron, a lecturer in sports performance at Manchester Metropolitan University. “You might lose 5% a decade but there’s nothing to stop someone starting that journey and achieving huge changes,” he adds. 


Start running again

There’s no time like the present

The news is nothing but positive when you choose to start running again. We have amazing bodies that can, in time, adapt to anything and everything we throw at them when it comes to fitness. “Our bodies are plastic and will adapt,” confirms Cameron. “If we stay active, we can increase our fitness to a point.” 

Of course, he explains, we’re getting older and of course, muscles grow weaker with time, so there’s an inevitability that you won’t be able to match a twenty-something. “People who start later in life will be able to match their peers who have run the whole time,” he says.  

The key is to recognise that exercise can blunt the ageing process, “but only to a degree”, Cameron is keen to stress.  

It’s a sentiment over-50s coach John Shepherd agrees with: “Between the ages of 30 and 60, the human body need not deteriorate that much if the right training and lifestyle is followed. You can, however, still expect a 1% decline in speed for every decade that passes post 30. However, the great performances of masters athletes show just what is possible and how we can seriously delay the march of Father Time.”  

Consider taking up yoga, too, as our tendons become stiffer as we age. Strength training for runners is also hugely important, says Cameron, as it helps maintain your correct biomechanics, which in turn reduces the risk of injury. 

An older woman stretching after a runCredit: Nova Frames/Shutterstock
Pay attention to the small details such as flexibility

Runners who’ve started late in life

Real-life super heroes

More and more, we hear incredible stories of runners who have come into the sport in their 50s. It’s important to be inspired by them rather than put off, even though they might be able to run a time you can only ever dream of. Running is all about creating a goal and training programme that fits what you’re looking to achieve. That said, they do have some amazing stories. 

Off the couch and breaking records

Guy Bracken had only been competing for three years before he became the second-fastest ever over-50 British athlete to run 3,000m indoors. Bracken returned to running when he was 48 when, for no reason at all, he decided to go for a jog.

“I hadn’t done anything to keep fit, no sport at all, for around 30 years, but I put on an old pair of trainers and a pair of baggy shorts and went out for a run for about 20 minutes,” Bracken told his local paper, the Chronicle.

And that was just the start. A decade on, just past his 60th birthday, he smashed the world masters M60 3,000m indoor record with a time of 9:39.20 and today is still running strong, breaking records regularly. 

Faster than ever aged 75

Admittedly Jeannie Rice has been running for a while now – she’s 75 – but she didn’t start until she was in her mid-30s, when she decided to lose a few pounds after a holiday. Now, 40 years later, the American hits just outside 22 minutes for 5km and can run a marathon in around three and a half hours. She’s nothing short of amazing.

She is, however, an exception to the rule when it comes to how you should train as an older athlete. While most text books will tell you to reduce the number of miles you run, she told World Marathon Majors: “I have not cut down much on the volume of miles as I aged. If I add it all up, I have run around the globe three times and I am currently three-quarters of the way on the fourth lap.”  

Think of her as what can be achieved rather than someone you should try to match. By way of example, I too can run around 22 minutes, but I’m 60 and a man. Jeannie is a huge inspiration and shows me what is possible and why I should keep on running. 


Top tips to get you running

Key elements to think about past 50

  1. Your comeback will be about taking your time. You’re in this for the long haul, so start with low figures in terms of your weekly runs and mileage, and slowly but surely build from there. Run for two weeks, then take a week off, and repeat. 
  2. Don’t think you can’t do it just because you’re older. As Rice says: “I train and compete with much younger men, so I forget how old I am, and we never talk about age. We talk about training, racing and nutrition. I know I am old enough to be their grandmother, but it doesn’t matter. My running does the talking.”
  3. Pay attention to nutrition and make the necessary changes such as adding more protein to your diet, to help your muscles repair and allow for the fact you are in your fifties and beyond. Protein plays a bigger role than in your younger years. 
  4. Rest becomes the most important element of your training. Roger Robinson is still running well into his 80s, but understands he can’t run hard every day or even every other day. He builds in three or four consecutive days of rest to his training programme. But when he does run, he adheres to the same theories as younger runners, including interval training, hill work and varying your pace to make sure all your energy systems are kept in condition. 
Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins


Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors.

But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide. In fact, he’s still very competitive. In 2022 he ran in the World Masters’ Mountain Running Champs in the over-55 age group and is now looking forward to moving up a category and taking on the 60-year-olds.

He’s also part of the England Team Management set-up in road running as well as being an England team coach in the U18 age group for track and field athletics. Currently, he coaches a group of athletes ranging from 13 years old to 55 at his local club.

Outside of work, Paul loves cooking and driving classic cars. He’s owned everything from a 1966 Ford F-250 pickup to a clapped-out 1987 Porsche 944. He’s married to Elaine and they have a West Highland White Terrier named Benji, who’s not that keen on being timed for every run!