“Do not even entertain the fact that you are getting old!" - 60 year old 40 min 10k runner Bird
“Do not even entertain the fact that you are getting old! Keep doing the things you have always done and if they become difficult, work harder,” are Judy Bird’s words of advice for anyone who is looking to get the best out of their running as they get older. Ageing like a fine wine, this Murray and Roberts Running Club athlete completed a clean sweep in the 60-69 category of the 2021 SPAR Grand Prix, winning all six races of the series with a best time of 40:13 set during the Durban leg in September, which was also a new SA age record for over 60s.
This sprightly sexagenarian believes the secret to her success lies in her positive mental attitude and economical approach to training. “I am a great believer in not over training and have learnt over the years thanks to Coach Neville’s insistence – that “less is more”. Not always easy to get one’s head around – but you actually get faster on your rest days! I also believe you need a complete break once a year. By focusing on the shorter distances I believe I have saved my body a lot of stress and wear and tear,” she said.
That being said though, there can be no denying that the training programme put in place by her coach is producing these sort of results because Bird has talent. As the owner of a half marathon personal best of 80 minutes and a 10k PB of 37:03 set as a veteran, the young Bird showed promise when she stumbled into middle distance running during her mid-twenties.
“During the track sessions at school, I was always in the top 3 or 4 of the sprinters but definitely not the fastest! When I joined East London Runners, someone started coaching me as he thought I “had potential.” The crunch came when I ran the Westminster Mile and placed! Then I left the UK in 1989 and came to SA. I joined Midrand Striders and discovered that I could keep up with the Boys. I had just turned 40 and it was Midrand Striders that recommended I got some coaching. I started with Dudley Hulbert for a few years and then met Neville Beeton – that was around 2002,” explained the woman who turned 60 in June.
Their relationship has remained unbroken since and it is coach Neville who introduced her to more focussed speed training. “Neville is a great believer in the 75 second sprint with 45 sec recovery repetitions and others that build the heart rate. Hill repeats also have an important role to play – and they give me a lot of strength and confidence,” she told #TheTopRunner.
Coach Neville’s programme has been so successful that Bird has been unbeaten over any distance she has raced since she turned 50 a decade ago. But perhaps the true secret lies in the fact that this evergreen girl just loves running and training so much. “ It is something that offers challenges, and I can do anywhere, anytime and on my own! I also love doing what is right for my body and my health i.e. eating correctly, listening to my body, regular massages, enough sleep, strength work, etc. The sense of achievement and wellbeing is unlike other sports I have tried. It is all down to you, yourself and I!”