The amazing aging idiot.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing 50 years from now but it’s not likely that I’ll be interested in racing marathons, much less running them in under 4 hours like the incredible Ed Whitlock did a few months ago. Whitlock, 85, who is fairly well known to my fellow running nerds reading this, got some nice press in The New York Times last week for his record-setting ways that have defied the long understood limitations of aging athletes. “I believe people can do far more than they think they can,” Whitlock told Jere Longman. “You have to be an idiot enough to try it.” Well, sometimes an idiot can be one of the most inspiring individuals you’ll ever come across, so I encourage you to read the aforementioned profile on Whitlock (along with this older feature Scott Douglas wrote for Running Times in 2010) before telling yourself that you’re too old to do whatever it is you think you’re too old to do.
+ The fact that Whitlock “has no coach, follows no special diet, does not chart his mileage, wears no heart-rate monitor, takes no ice baths, gets no massages and avoids stretching” is likely baffling many modern-day endurance athletes who are quick to spend money on compression socks, featherlight shoes (Whitlock’s racing flats are 15 years old, for what it’s worth), customized recovery drinks, fancy power meters or the like in the name of improvement. So why doesn’t Whitlock worry about these things and would he be even faster if he did? The answers to those questions are up for debate but the one thing I am sure of is that Whitlock’s consistent training over many years, a number of long runs at a high percentage of marathon pace (note: tread carefully here), fairly infrequent racing and resting when his body tells him he needs it are the main reasons for his success and longevity. His own disinterest not withstanding, Whitlock doesn’t need to worry about these extra considerations—I’m not saying they wouldn’t help him—because he’s got the basics covered so well. Steve Magness discussed this topic recently in a post for his Science of Running blog entitled “Forget The Gadgets and Hacks: Nail The Basics.” “The focus on the final 1% has created a dire problem,” Magness writes. “If we head down this route, we quickly run out of room for improvement."