Track star turned road runner Shawn Abrahams shares the secrets of staying fit as you get older
For most middle distance track athletes, once the days of racing two laps of the track or the metric mile in packed stadia are over, then so too are their days of competitive running. A select few though, are able to make the transition to road runners, while even fewer continue on to become competitive masters athletes racing on the road running circuit. One such example is Shawn Abrahams, a former SA 800m champion, but is now better known for standing on top of 10km podiums in the 50+ age category.
"When I was doing track and field, I did a little bit of road running but I wasn't competitive because I knew that track and field was my main thing. Whenever we did track and field we had to go from the gun like 52 or 53 seconds for the first lap," he told #TheTopRunner reflecting on the change from being a track athlete to a road runner. "Now I had to adjust and slow down. It took me a while to learn to run 2:50 per kilometre or 3 minutes plus. But that is what you learn through training," said the 53-year-old.
Abrahams made the transition from the track to the road at 35 years old after a career as an 800m specialist that saw him crowned national champion and produce a personal best 1:45.03 at the SA Championships in the year 2000. That performance in front of his home crowd in Cape Town was to be the pinnacle of a track career that also saw him run 2:18.33 for 1000m. But instead of hanging up his spikes, he chose to switch to the road where he has become a living legend in the Western Cape and the poster boy for how to keep running fast as you get older.
"I love what I'm doing and part of the reason is to motivate people young and old, fat and thin to run. When people look at the times I clock at my age it motivates them. Running is like a drug for me, if I don't train I feel as though my day isn't done. I train with a few guys in Kuils River. These days there are only two guys who can train with me and handle the pace, so we train together every few days," said the man who still runs 33 minutes for 10km.
And for those who are not yet able to handle the pace, Abrahams is helping them by coaching youngsters in the area. In his role as coach at the Kuils River Runner's Club, Abrahams is grooming the next generation of Cape Town's top runners. "We train out in Kuils River. Before Covid-19 we had a lekker bunch of 20 plus juniors and seniors. So now we are smaller. I usually do my sessions at 6am or 7am in the morning and then in the afternoon I coach kids - primary and high school and even students at the sports school in Kuils River. Everyday is a different session."