Running calendar wisdom insists we’re supposed to slow down as the years pass, simply because of the natural aging process.
Courtney Woodfield apparently missed the memo.
The 48-year-old Newtown runner recently set a personal record with a remarkable time of 3:20 in the Philadelphia Marathon (good for fifth place in her age group) and her training suggests she’s headed for even bigger and better things.
A former standout runner for Central Bucks East High School, Woodfield waited until her children grew up a bit before returning to serious competition.
In the past year alone she’s run six marathons, including Boston, and she’s learning from each of the experiences.
A 65-mile training week is not out of the question during a buildup to one of her marathons and the goal is simple: Stay healthy, work on speed and keep the immediate goal completely in focus.
Woodfield was asked what the motivation is, what keeps her going and allows her to throw the age thing out the window.
“I think it comes down to wanting to have a big personal goal and seeing what is physically possible as we get older,’’ Woodfield said. “I am finding that putting the hard work into training for a race is just as rewarding as the race itself.’’
The chance to compete against her age-group peers provides all the incentive really needed.
“I honestly didn’t realize how big and motivating the world of masters running is locally and internationally,’’ Woodfield said. “I am motivated by others my age and older who are meeting and exceeding race times I didn’t think were possible at our ages.’’
Born in California, Woodfield and her family moved to Buckingham/Bucks County when she was age four. After a stay in Philadelphia, she returned to Bucks 11 years ago and settled in Newtown.
After years as a recreational runner, Woodfield changed her outlook when the pandemic hit. The respite from “normal’’ life allowed her more time to train and focus on racing.
“I was in medical school (she’s a radiologist at Abington Hospital in the Jefferson Health system) and then I had kids, so there really wasn’t enough carved out time to do running for myself. Then everything changed.’’
She ran 3:25 at York to qualify for Boston this fall.
“I’m still making lots of mistakes,’’ she said. “It’s a big learning curve, a big learning experience. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into in the beginning.’’
It’s rare for runners of either sex to continue to improve well into their 40s. What’s the secret?
“I think it just comes down to being consistent and persistent,’’ she said. “Even if I feel tired or don’t feel like going out there, I just do it. It’s kind of my nature. It’s just knowing if I put the work in, I’m going to have more fun. It’s one thing I can do for myself, since most of my time is devoted to family and work.’’
As mentioned, there are always new things to learn.
“One of the things I’ve incorporated is strength training as well,’’ Woodfield said. “I realize that’s really important at my age. I can’t just run, run, run.’’
Courtney and her husband, Roland, have two children — daughter, Sophia, 12; and son, Liam, 10.
She is an active member of the Bucks County Roadrunners and enjoys participating in various training programs, including the “McTuesday’’ night four-mile time trial runs in Lower Makefield.
Woodfield incorporates the speed-hill-distance elements into her weekly training cycle, with the speed workout on Tuesday, hills at Tyler on Thursday and a long run on Sunday. The other days she runs easier and does her strength training.
Just over a year ago, when she was getting back into running with purpose, she wasn’t sure what was up ahead.
“Joining the (BCRR) club has been invaluable,’’ she said. “Learning from other people and keeping motivated. There are people who are my age or older and still running fast. I thought I was at my limit. I thought I would do a marathon at 47 and be done. Then I saw all these other people who were really excelling.’’
Her immediate goal is to get down to that 3:15 mark.
“I ran 3:20 at Philly just six weeks after a 3:22 at Boston so I wasn’t super fresh,’’ she said. “I’m hopeful that I can get to at least 3:15.’’
No doubt she can reach that milestone. She’s already turned back the clock somewhat and there’s no telling where that improvement might end.
12K O’Christmas, 10 a.m., Tyler State Park, Richboro. Contact www.runningintheusa