How to keep running after 60: tips from an octogenarian who still wins her races.

How to keep running after 60: tips from an octogenarian who still wins her races.

When age is seen as a barrier to staying active and competitive, individuals like Penny defy the stereotypes, reminding us that running, racing, and enjoying activity is possible well into the 70s, 80s, and beyond.

While there’s a common misconception that older runners shuffle around the course, Penny puts that notion to bed. Her story isn’t one of plodding along but of accelerating with age. At 69, she clocked her fastest marathon in Frankfurt at 3:47:18.

With over 30 marathons, 145-mile ultra-marathons, and thousands of miles clocked, Penny shares her journey of running, competing, and resilience in the golden years.

The key, she emphasises, is both physical and mental strength.

Pushing boundaries

Penny running

"I didn’t start running until I was 50," Penny recalls. "At school, I was not a sprinter, but us girls were never allowed to run more than 300 yards; the boys did that."

Her running began when a friend suggested they train for the London Marathon together. "I thought, why not? I hadn’t done much running before that point, but I was always active," Penny explains.

Initially a struggle, Penny persisted. “I remember it was dreadful at first, thinking I can’t breathe, I can’t do this, it was awful! But I kept doing it, and it got better. So, when people tell me I’m struggling with this and can’t breathe, I say it’ll come; give it time. And they find I was right.”

Penny's love for running led her to complete marathons worldwide and longer races like the Nottingham to Lincolnshire 31-miler. She continued to push her limits, representing England in the Masters Series. In 2019, at 76, she competed for England, won her age group, and won points for England.

Penny also completed the South Downs 80. When she was met with some resistance, people saying, “You can’t do that,” it spurred her on even more to complete it in 16 hours and 47 minutes.

“And to think they wouldn’t let me run 300 yards at school,” she laughed.

Penny’s crowning achievement was the 2003 Grand Union Canal 145-mile Race, but her dedication to running continues. At an annual gathering of runners aged 80+ in Bushy Park, she posted the fastest time in her age category and boasted the highest age-graded score.

What's Penny’s secret to enduring running success? Here are her top tips.

Find the right mindset

Running requires physical strength and endurance. It also requires mental strength to move forward in the face of setbacks. Penny embodies this mindset with her positivity and determination. Rather than fixating on setbacks or ailments, she focuses on the joy of moving forward.

She proudly pointed to her jumper, displaying the Grand Union Canal 145-mile Race emblem. “It took me three attempts to get this,” she recounts. “The first time, torrential rain forced my group to quit. The second time, my feet swelled up so much I couldn't fit them back into my shoes. So, the third time, I brought a spare pair." Out of 51 starters, only 22 finished, and Penny crossed the finish line 16th in 43 hours and 58 minutes, securing first place in her age group.

“You’ve gotta look for the brighter side of life,” she insists, “When I go out on a long run, and someone comes with you but does nothing but moan, I think, good grief, it’s a beautiful day. Raise your head and appreciate it.”

Enjoy the process

Penny emphasises the importance of enjoying the experience of running, not just the end goal. Because when the PBs stop, what will motivate you to continue getting out there?

"It's all about enjoying it," Penny emphasises, echoing the advice she both follows and imparts to fellow runners she mentors. "You've got to find the fun in it."

Look after yourself

To keep running until you’re 80, it’s not a case of avoiding injuries altogether. Unfortunately, injuries are a standard part of life and running; it’s about how you bounce back from your challenges.

Penny maintains her physical health with regular visits to Philippa, a Registered Osteopath at the Fitstuff Clinic. When she supports new runners with their training plans, she incorporates sessions with the Fitstuff Clinic to address minor issues before they escalate into major injuries.

"It's frustrating to put in all that training and see it go to waste," Penny explains. "That's why I encourage my runners to see Philippa before starting their training and monthly after that. She will know if something that wasn't there before is coming up in your legs. Prevention is better than cure. One of my runners had problems with her Achilles before she’d even started training, but Philippa helped her get to a place where she could run.”

Rebuild after setbacks

Penny has encountered her share of setbacks and injuries, from a severe cycling crash to a garden fall resulting in a fractured bone, Strep A infection, and sciatic nerve damage. Despite these challenges, she refused to give up. Determined to rebuild herself, she relied on her resilience and the support of Philippa at the Fitstuff Clinic.

“Don’t be discouraged by how you feel,” Penny advises. “When I started back, it was painful; I was doing 13-minute miles, just putting one leg in front of the other, thinking, will this ever change? But of course it did.”

During recovery periods, Penny always found a way to stay active. Even after completing a marathon at 70, she faced injuries but refused to halt altogether. She emphasises the importance of perseverance.

Join a local running community

As a long-standing Waverley Harriers Running Club member, Penny advised me on the importance of community when looking to run as long as you can: "If you meet people when you’re out and socialise, it helps. If you stay indoors and lose contact with people, it’s much harder to get out there. Other people can be an amazing motivator. If you’re chatting, you do the run without even realising you’ve done it. We’re not there to measure time or distance but to enjoy it.”

Set achievable goals

While Penny might not be planning another 145-miler anytime soon, she continues to set goals, enter races, and challenge herself. “Just remind yourself that it's nice to get out, no matter the pace or the distance — don’t set your goals too high. I always laugh when people ask me what pace I’m doing, and I say it’s conversational. Don’t go too fast; get into your rhythm, relax your breathing, and enjoy it. Run at your own pace.”

Mix up your training

Penny knows the importance of a varied training program. She still does speed work, longer runs, mobility, and strength training. “If you stop this, you get slower and weaker!” She joked. She makes time for body pump classes twice a week, lifting heavy weights to keep her knees and muscles strong and a long stretch after any run, “that certainly helps to keep me going,” says Penny.


Penny’s racing maintains her passion for running: “I still wish to compete. Nobody is out there to run against you, so I aim to compete with the ages below me. That’s my competition now, and when I beat them, that’s a good feeling.”

Your achievements don’t have to stop as you get older. Penny was running for England in her 60s and completed her fastest marathon at 69! You might have to set new goals, but they don’t need to come to an end.

This month, Penny smashed her 10 km event at Goodwood, completing it in 59:01.

Her determination, perseverance, and unwavering competitive nature can teach us something about the joys of moving forward.