Saturday, November 26, 2011

Don't Run Unless You Want to Die

This will be a good post for you to read if you are tired of hearing about what everyone is thankful for.

I have a ton to be thankful for -- oodles and oodles to be thankful for -- but I will spare you a post about how wonderful my life is, and air my dirty laundry instead.

Strangely, I can write about this because despite the fact that every member of my family is aware of this blog, not a single one of them chooses to read it, so I can safely write about family drama without further instigating family drama.

From left: sister, me, niece, sister, mom

I can also write about this with some  degree of appropriateness because.....the family drama started with a discussion about running.

My Thanksgiving week began with so much promise....I was giddy with excitement over a 4-day weekend, could not wait to see my family and especially my two sisters who live in San Diego and my 4-month old niece.

These three are the ones I don't see enough.  I was eating pumpkin bread while trying to smile.  DON'T TOUCH ME GEMMA, NOOOOOO! (Because I was sick.  Read below)

San Diego sister-sandwich

Also trying to eat pumpkin bread while smiling

Tuesday morning I woke up sick.  This was aggravated by a long work day, still in the office at the time I should have been tucking under the covers.  By Thanksgiving, I had lost most of my ability to taste food, but really this wasn't much a bummer for me as I consider Thanksgiving food to not be awesome.  Seriously, if the food was soooooo good, then why wouldn't we eat cranberry sauce and green been casserole all year long?  (Answer: cause it's not that good).

The part that was a bummer was that I wasn't allowed to touch my niece, Gemma.  I was germy.


Still, I was happy, munching away on cornbread and sweet potato dishes and lentils, when my dad asked me if I ran that morning.

Yup, I did run!  As a matter of fact, I continued, I am running a marathon in 10 days!  (Yes, my family is clueless as to when I have a big race, unless it is in their home town of Napa.  They have supported my two marathons in Napa).

I didn't mention my hip issues -- I was hoping to bring that up at some point, as he is a doctor, and might have some words of advice.

How did my dad react to my news of a marathon in 10 days?  Was he excited? Encouraging? Curious?

Dad: You know, someone just died in the Baltimore marathon.  In fact, anytime there is a marathon with enough people running it, someone dies.

I have known since my first marathon in 2006 that my dad thinks 26.2 miles is unhealthy.  It doesn't help his opinion that I ended up in the ER 3 days after running the Napa Marathon in 2010 (chest pains, which were diagnosed as esophageal spasms).  So for a minute or two, I permitted a discussion about how to not be that person at a big marathon who dies (Answer: there's no predictability or warning signs, so you are SOL).

This conversation flowed into the next anti-running discussion.

Dad: You know, every single person who runs a lot has joint problems in their 40's, 50's, or if lucky not until their 60's.  There may be a few exceptions to the rule, but in my 45 years of experience as a doctor, all runners have trouble and pain by middle age.

I decided at that point I would not be bringing up my hip issue.  :(

This discussion escalated slightly as I tried to defend running.  I'm not going to share anymore details, as I will probably regret saying what I want to say.  Suffice to say, the rest of Thanksgiving sucked, really sucked, and it ultimately had very little to do with running and more to do with someone's pride (not mine).

After dinner.  Not in a good mood.


How do you handle people in your life who encourage you not to run?  After 15 years of running should I seriously just....not run?

Are you someone, or do you know someone, who has run for many years and is now over the age of 40?  How is your/their body holding up?  Do they have any regrets for running long distances?


  1. Wow that sucks balls. Seriously. IMHO (and I'm not a doctor unless WebMD perusing counts) the benefits of running outweigh the risks. You are probably more likely to die in a car accident on your way to work than running a marathon...

    I think there are plenty of things to do to keep your joints healthy...weight lifting helps a lot, taking Glucosamine-Chondrotin (SP?).

    I think there is a lot to say about the people in our lives wanting to hold us back from success (whether it is running or achieving something at work...etc.) is that it has a lot more do about THEM and projecting their issues on us.

  2. Geeeesh, RoseRunner! I'm sorry to hear your holiday went that way.

    My parents both ran when they were younger and had to stop for reasons not related to running. My uncle, who still holds several ultra records he set decades ago, had to stop running because of a non-running related injury. I ran with a 70-year-old fellow at my 30-mile race earlier this month. He used to run 2:30 marathons, and he still runs a few marathons each year (but much slower). Lots of ultra runners are in their 40s and 50s. I recommend running Neal Jamison's Running Through the Wall.

    Just tune out your dad. If he were offering helpful information, it'd be different. Did you tell him how his attitude about your running makes you feel? He's probably just sharing that information out of concern for his lovely daughter.

  3. frustrating! I can't imagine not having my family support me like that. It must drive you insane!

    I know and run with quite a few people in their 40s and 50s, who have done multiple marathons and even ultramarathons (even though I know you just think those are nuts and don't really count) and they are in great health. It's odd, but all the people I know of those ages (and really, all ages) who are obese and inactive seem to have quite a few more problems. Strange.

  4. Ugh, that's sucks. I have not been running for many years, nor am I over 40, so I don't have any advice to offer, other than saying "ditto" to Danielle C's comment. My biggest obstacle right now is my mom's concerns about my safety when running in the dark, or running alone (even during the day).

  5. my dad is the same way, difference between you and me is I am 42 yrs old.

    we have had several discussions on this, they all ended pretty bad.

    My younger brother is the worst, no support and he thinks I will die and that I should not run.

    This is all 100% worst since I ended in the hospital after my last half marathon with elevated cardiac enzymes

    not a good topic with my family

  6. Well, I don't have this problem, per se, but I do have inlaws that I consider to be "pushers" - that is they offer their opinion loudly, forcefully, and without much thought put into it. Then they push it onto you. My husband, who is a few measly months away from getting his phd and being able to teach actual college students, got a lecture on how too many people are going to college and ruining the economy. Then, the offender turned it onto me asking me if I was "still a democrat." At that point, I just walked away. It sucks that they are this way, and I wish I had better advice to give you, but the best I can do is just ignore them. It sucks you can't count on them for support, but you do have the support of 100+(!!!) people on the internets!

  7. If you were morbidly obese and had major medical problems because of it (or just high risks for said problems) do you think it would be mealtime conversation? I highly doubt it. Sure, they would probably have concerns and mention it to you in private, especially as your dad is a doctor. But why do people feel the need to tell you why you're unhealthy/wrong/dumb in public so casually? Clearly this is an issue for me...
    Just keep running. If you look it up, you'll find plenty of people in their 70s who run. And plenty who are injured because of it. You'll also find plenty of unhealthy non-runners.

  8. That sucks. I'm in my 40s and know I'm in far better health than I was prior to I got into running. Not sure how I will feel when I'm 60, but I would be quite happy to have 20 more years of running.

  9. Ah, family gatherings. So wonderful. You need to dig up dirt on your relatives and use that conversation starters for the next holiday event. The best offense is a good defense.

    Haters be hatin'

  10. I have people in my life with whom I do not discuss exercise at all, because, according to them, all runners have terrible knees, and why would people pay money to exercise. All of these people, ALL of them are overweight to some degree.

  11. That sucks! I don't know how running affects people long term, but we certainly know how NOT exercising affects people--it seems to me it is far better to exercise and take your chances of dying in a marathon than to live a sedentary lifestyle and take your chances dying that way.

    This is why I try to avoid family. At least my family is a fan of extreme exercise, though my mom read somewhere that walking is the best exercise so she doesn't understand why we run or lift weights or anything.

  12. Ugh--I hate that attitude. I've been running since high school. I'm in my 40s. I did 2 marathons last fall (both in 4 hours, not great but not too shabby!) and did a few halves this year. I have zero problems. I just don't understand that sort of thinking, I guess. I'm sorry :-(

  13. I have been thinking a lot about this lately.

    Yes, many runners have joint problems in their 40s and 50s. You know who else has joint problems in their 40s and 50s? NEARLY EVERYONE ELSE.

    Joint issues in your 40s and 50s might not necessarily be the exclusive product of running. They might just be the product of, well, age.

    And you know what I bet? I bet doctors see so many runners with joint problems at that age because we are the ones who are used to being active, we're USED to being able to get out there and run 10, 20 miles and have it be no big thang, and now that we can't anymore and it's directly impacting our happiness, we're a lot more likely to complain to a doctor about it than Lazy Lester and Carolyn Couchqueen who never pursued more than some half-assed exercise regimen to begin with. They have joint problems too, they just don't care as much because their point of reference is one with comparatively reduced activity in their youth. (Complete generalization, yes, but this is just a personal hunch I have.)

    We all get old. May as well enjoy your youth and your ability to get out there and run your tail off while you can.

    I run with a group of guys who range from their 20s to their 70s. The 70s dudes can more than hold their own and it gives me hope.

    You see plenty of guys in their 70s out there running, but what makes me a bit nervous is you don't see nearly as many women that age still out there. I wonder why? Is that a hormones thing, menopause? It really makes me wonder.

    I plan on enjoying my time as a runner while I have it, and not worrying to much about wrecking my joints. There are no guarantees in life, so I'm going to love the shit out of running while it's still an option for me. When I reach the point where my joints won't let it be fun anymore, I plan on discovering my latent ability as a world class masters swimmer.

  14. My running club is filled with men in their 60's and 70's who still run really well(sub 3:30 for the marathon). Of course they were much faster a few decades ago, but their bodies are holding up fine. I think there are fewer master's female runners b/c running wasn't as popular for females decades ago and they never got into the sport.

    I think it's all about running smart and you can do it for years to come.

  15. I'm 46, but I've really only been running in my 40s, so I can't say what would have happened if I'd been running since my 20s and 30s. I do think it's possible that your running will change after 20+ years, and you will eventually run slower and probably have to run less. But so what? You are not going to die from that. (I strongly feel that people who die during marathons are random anomalies, not a reflection on dangers of running). Even if you eventually have to modify your running, you will still be healthier, in better shape, and possibly happier than your non-running peers. I am sorry that your family is negative about your running. I feel lucky that my family, and everyone I know, is nothing but impressed by my running (even as they explain that they can't run due to bad knees, bad back, etc.).

  16. My therapist says that my mom says stupid shit because she loves me and is worried about me. She said to imagine her idiotic words are bubbles of love leaving her lips. Doesn't work for me...maybe it'll work for you :P

    I am 48 and running. I am already planning on being a 3:30 marathoner in my 50's. There. Boom. I outted myself. I have joint issues... but they are not related to being old, they are related to being weak. I need to work out MORE!

    I remember my dad in his 40's going out to run. His friends used to laugh at him. "Just keeping the moving parts working!" is what he'd say to them.

    Sorry your Thanksgiving sucked. It's awesome you have your sisters to kind of buffer the bummer stuff a bit.

  17. Ugh! I hear this kind of crap all the time from certain people and it really gets tiresome. One of my PhD advisors is almost 70 and he has been a distance runner for over 40 years. He no longer runs marathons because he says he doesn't want to be out for that long as he's gotten slower, but he still runs half-marathons and bikes constantly. To my knowledge, he has not had any joint problems.

  18. RoseRunner, I thought of something while out running tonight:

    Some lady had a baby right after she ran the Chicago Marathon, so you should probably stop running so that doesn't happen to you.

  19. "Haters be hatin'". That made me laugh.

    Doctors see the bad side of things. People who are healthy runners are not going in to see him. He perhaps has a skewed view of reality with injuries to runners.

  20. aww i'm so sorry the running discussion wasn't positive and left you upset!! always remember who you run for...YOU!!! and if you love it, and want to run, then do it!! there are tons of studies that support the benefits of running! it is healthy! I hope your weekend improves! are you running CIM?!!!

  21. My family also thinks I'm nuts for wanting to run first thing in the morning, that my joints are going to have to be replaced sooner than later and that I only run to be skinny. It hasn't helped that when my gran was in hospital for a hip replacement, the lady in her room was in her 40's and hat to have a knee prothesis and used to run a lot. so now every time we talk about running my gran and mum go "think about thta lady in the hospital, you'll end up like her". I have the feeling that people make such comments because, one the one hand, they care about you (like your dad) and on the other hand, they might envy you (like "unhealthy" coworkers making comments about healthy lunch food).

  22. Running is a lottery, but so are an awful lot of other things in life.

    At the races I've run, 75% of the female winners have been in the vets category, which here in the UK is usually over 45. There are so many women in their 40s that seem to get faster as they age, particularly at the marathon distance. I echo what another commenter said above though, in that once you get into the 50s and 60s it seems to be predominantly men that run, probably due to issues of bone density. That said, there's a woman in her 70s that pops up at quite a few half marathons, so there's hope for everyone!

    So many factors influence a runner's 'life expectancy,' literally and on the road/track: genetics, dietary habits, overtraining (err, me, I know I'll be lucky to still be going once I'm 30!) and hormonal balances/imbalances. I don't think your Dad was 'hatin'' on you, merely expressing possibly misguided concern in the only way a lot of Dads seem to know how: my own father hates me running, particularly long distances, and we've argued a lot about it to the point of not speaking. I really resented him...and then he turned up from nowhere to cheer me on at my last marathon finish, because he finally realised how much running meant to me.

    We could all die tomorrow. I'd rather go out doing something I love, as those poor souls at the marathons did/have, than live a cautious life and then die with regret in my heart.


  23. My mom started running in her 30s and is now almost 60. I have never heard her complain of any joint issues (which makes me jealous b/c I'm in my 30s and always have some sort of issue). Anyway, the only thing she ever complains about is getting slower...she hates it!

    So sorry your Thanksgiving sucked! And I hope you get to feeling better soon.

  24. Your niece is adorable.

    I hate the anti running talk. My mom convinced me to quit track in middle school because I looked tired and too skinny- a decision Ive regretted a lot.

    As for age, my dad who ran a 3:04 marathon 25 years ago doesn't seem to have any more problems than anybody else. At age 59 he ran a 3:45ish marathon this year in Chicago, and just took 7 seconds off his more recent 5k time for a 20:50. He has some knee stiffness, but nothing that prevents him from kicking my ass in every race.

  25. I have nothing new to add -- just wanted to confirm that I've had those conversations too, and they suck, and I wish that more people (even ones I love) would stick to "If you don't have anything nice/encouraging/supportive to say..." Particularly when they're not experts on the subject.

  26. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. I, like SF Road Warrior have nothing new to add, but have definitely been questioned and accused of poor health management because I like to run. It sucks because you just want to say "can't you just be happy for me?!" It's also tough to predict how your joints will be in 20-30 years, but don't stop running because that's what people are trying to scare you with.. You're talented and fast, and you have a lot of great races ahead of you.

  27. Hi Rose, I just found your blog and I love it! You inspire me with your work hours (my boyfriend is a lawyer as well) and your ability to run 20 miles a day while working 70+ weeks.

    I'm going to sound like giant bitch for this but I've noticed that when someone is telling me this, it is someone who is significantly overweight. We were at a wedding and I wanted to scream, "You know what will kill you at 50 - the fact that your waist measures more than 40 inches and your blood pressure is high." Your dad's a healthy doctor but a lot of people I know aren't and it's something that always bothers me.

    Here's the stats from 2010 in terms of death:
    There haven't been many large studies on the topic, but one presented at an American College of Cardiology conference last year reported that the risk of sudden death during a marathon is 0.8 per 100,000 people. The risk of dying from triathlons, which combine running, biking and swimming, was higher, at 1.5 per 100,000.

  28. My mom is anti running as well, which is really ahrd because it's something I'm proud of and can't share it. My father has run almost everyday for years and years and he's doing just fine! At 62 he's stronger and fitter than most 20 year olds and has no joint pain. He no longer does full marathons, but does do halves and lots of ten mile races. Running, he knows, is the secret to happiness. I have a heart murmur, but the doc assures me that while I could have a heart attack while running, I could also have one while sitting on the couch...It's much healthier to be active than not.

  29. My dad was ran 5-6 miles a day, five times a week, for 40 years. But he ran only on the sidewalk and in cheap shoes, so he had to move all of his runs to the treadmill in his 50s because of joint pain. After he was treated for colon cancer, he couldn't run very far. He runs a bit now, but mostly walks and lifts weights to stay in shape.

    In spite of his knee pain, he has never said a bad thing about my running. Probably because he knows that it is such a stress-reliever and great way to stay fit. My mom was happy with my running and races until I started training for my first marathon this fall. When she found out how long a marathon is, she became concerned. But I did catch her bragging about it to my aunts over Thanksgiving. She would like me to take a rest from running after CIM, though.

    Most of the people in my running club are older, 50-70. And they still smoke me in races! I think it's possible to run long well into your senior years, you just have be conservative, take rest days, wear proper footwear and eat well.

  30. lol on haters be hating indeed!

    Bummer that your Thanksgiving wasn't the best because of the running discussion talk.

    I've heard varying opinions on whether running is good or bad for you - but I have heard that running strengthens bones and your joints too. So while it might wear down some things (cartilage, etc), it does make you stronger as well. So both viewpoints might be valid.

    Generally my parents are supportive of my running, because they think it's good to be active. Though my Dad has said that he'd rather have me only run half marathons at the most, and avoid marathons. I'm starting to realize that he might be right, I'm not sure if human beings in general were meant to run 26 miles in one shot.

    I've been battling injuries since last April, though I think it had to do with incorrect form on weight training - and wasn't related to running.

    I hope to be running forever, not sure if I will be doing marathons forever, but I hope to at least do half marathons and shorter races in the future.

    So in the end, I think the positives of running outweigh the negative.

  31. Seems like it's always doctors that have this (IMO) skewed view. But probably because they generally see people who have problems. It's not like you ake an appt with the doc just to tell him/her: "Look! My knees are fine!" You go when you have issues. So, all they see are the issues.

    There are lots of runners at the Y where I teach yoga, that are over 50+. At work (my regular day job) we have lots of 40+ runners that are also not hobbling around.

  32. No time to read the other comments but I am sure they are brilliant. Sorry about your Thanksgiving but look at the bright side, at least you didn't have to travel all day to get there. This stuff about running destroying your joints is nonsense. I'll tell you what destroys your joints, playing contact sports like football or cutting sports like basketball or soccer. What do people do when they can no longer do those sports? They run and blame their joint problems on that. Ridiculous. There are two other things that destroy joints, getting fat and inactivity- not necessarily in that order. Getting fat for obvious reasons and inactivity because the muscles that stabilize the joints get weak. All that being said I am not a big fan of the marathon distance. Studies tend to indicate that it isn't the healthiest thing to do to your body. I am really happy to see the half catching on. It retains much of the appeal of the full marathon but is much easier on the body. There you go. I have been running most of my life and believe me I am OLD now but my joints are fine except for my back and I attribute that to football not running. Oh yeah, I am a doctor too for what it's worth not that anyone really cares. Final words of wisdom; sooner or later (better if it is sooner) runners should get off of the daily running schedule and start cross training. Your body will thank you someday. I like your blog a lot especially the funny picture captions.

  33. Argh. I think I'm probably echoing all the other comments by saying that that really sucks. Especially on Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday, and by the way I love Thanksgiving food, and feel free to discuss that with me next time I see you ;) But seriously, I understand crazy parental concern (recently my Mom told me I was not allowed to driving into San Francisco and go shopping by myself because it was too dangerous...forget the fact that I'm almost 30 years old...) but it especially sucks when it is crushing something that you really enjoy doing and is such an important part of your life. I'm so sorry that you have to feel that way.

  34. at least you aren't doing drugs or doing bjs in the back of a local supermarket. sucks your dad is supportive of the ONE thing you LOVE in life...but you make choices for YOURSELF. You can stop running when you are old and saggy.

  35. My Dad is a surgeon in Boston. He finds the time to train for 2-3 marathons every year. He's in his 50s now and has been running consistently since the 70s. He has also run the Comrades Marathon (56 miles in South Africa) several times both in his youth and in the last few years. He's never had an injury of any kind and is pretty much planning on running into his death bed. My grandfather is 81 and was also a marathoner, ultra-marathoner, and pro cyclist. He had a knee replacement at 80. Wasn't really related to running throughout his life so much as to being very old. Running makes you so much more physically strong than most. Whenever an injury turns up, you identify the source and strength train and physical therapy away muscle imbalances and such that you wouldn't have even known you had if you weren't a runner. I'm sorry about your Dad/family. I don't think I would run if I couldn't talk about it endlessly with my Dad. We're running Berlin together, and his biggest concern is that I'm going to beat him - not his or my knees. Sorry also for being that annoying person who comments on posts from the past.


we have a strict no-word-verification policy. Comment away!