Counterpoint to Ageism

Counterpoint to Ageism


When November comes around in New England, even when we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic, our instinct is to hibernate until the springtime when the weather thaws. But last November, WalkBoston created a way to keep us moving, motivated, and connected.

Beat the Bay State (BTBS), a virtually-hosted team fitness challenge to run/walk “around” the 900-mile perimeter of Massachusetts, encouraged friends and families to come together to stay active through friendly competition. WalkBoston was thrilled to see people across the state sharing their photos and experiences, but was surprised to discover how many participants were older adults!

COVID-19 recommendations have been more restrictive for older adults, making them appear feeble compared to younger people. While responsibly practicing social distancing and wearing masks, however, this group also finds solace, community, and health benefits from outdoor activities.

Running, It’s Not Only For the Young

More than 450 people signed up for the inaugural BTBS Team Challenge. While many of our competitors were younger, a higher-than-anticipated number of older walkers and runners brought the average age up to 44, with the average age among the top 20 finishers being 48. Of the top 20 performers, in terms of miles logged, two were under the age of 30 and two were 65+. To top it off, the second-place winner was a 56-year-old man from Gardner who logged 404 total miles and averaged over 13 miles a day!

The State of Running, a 2018 report published by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and, breaks down how the age of runners is steadily climbing. It found that runners have never been older, increasing from an average age of 35.2 in 1986 to 39.3 in 2018.

Staying Active and Fit as You Age

BTBS highlights a common misconception about the link between increased age and decreased activity levels. Demographics are shifting: Running—and walking—are sports accessible to all ages, and the average age of runners is getting older with every passing year.

Running and walking are fantastic ways to stay fit, regardless of age. Anyone can get started with just a pair of shoes. You can walk or run by yourself, with your grandkids, or with a running club like the Greater Framingham Running Club (GFRC Growlers), which took first place in the Beat the Bay State Team Challenge.

As the evidence shows, motivation for daily walking and running has shifted from recording the fastest times or longest distances to staying social, keeping moving, and seeing your community on foot. So lace up and hit the pavement!

If you’re looking for new and interesting places to explore on foot, check out the nearly 80 walking maps available on the WalkBoston website at Each one features places that are wonderful to walk, easy to navigate, and convenient to get around, and most are transit accessible.

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s January/February 2021 newsletter.
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