A few decades ago, ultra-endurance events were only for the young and crazy, and seemed unthinkable for the middle age crowd.
However, over the past few years, it has become surprisingly common to find the 40-60 and even 70 year olds performing in ultra-endurance events like Ironman Triathlons. A few are even running 20 consecutive marathons and cycling the entire country – across mountains and deserts– on almost no sleep.
How and why do they do it? And what do these amazing feats tell us about the limits of the ageing body?
Is it because we’ve become smarter on how to push our bodies by training, eating properly, and using innovative technologies like Icebox to recovery?
Is this the new midlife crisis of us holding on to our youth?
I believe the human body is an amazing machine which remains trainable throughout its entire lifespan. Perhaps age also brings greater emotional intelligence, a trait which has been shown to help ultra-athletes deal with disappointments, setbacks and tough training conditions.
For decades, the midlife crisis has been a tired pop-culture story of men buying sports cars and having affairs with younger women in a desperate bid to feel young again. But increasingly, people are responding to the anxieties of middle age not by clinging to their expiring youth but by taking on challenges that once seemed to belong only to the young.
Maybe pushing the limits of what they’re physically capable of through endurance, athletics and extreme fitness will make them feel young again.
“Today, almost a third of all triathlon participants in the United States are between the ages of 40 and 49, according to the U.S. Triathlon organization. The largest field of competitors at the 2017 New York Marathon was between the ages of 40 and 44.
In London in 2015, those 40–49 runners had faster overall times than the 20–29 year-olds. A research paper by Martin D. Hoffman and Kevin Fogard found that the average age of participants in 100-mile ultras was 44…”…quoted by Paul Flannery, who wrote the great article Extreme Athleticism is the New Midlife crisis.
Owning Icebox for the past 7 years has given me the honor of meeting many phenomenal athletes who aren’t sponsored by Nike. They are middle aged athletes who do it for the love of the challenge, which creates a sense of compassion and gratitude for what their bodies can do.
If this is the new midlife crisis, I need to start my training!
Play hard and recovery smart!