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Older Doesn't Mean Slower!

Posted Oct 24 2009 10:06pm
The big 45 is looming around the corner (about 3 months to be exact). I've always been the youngest in many of the landmark events of my life. I was really young when I got married. Were were young when we had our first child. When I got my first teaching job, I was the youngest on the staff. When I moved into educational publishing, I was one of youngest editor/writers on staff. When I joined my running group, I was one of the youngest.

Guess what?! In a blink of an eye, I'm no longer the youngest. Quite a twist of fate. I'm one of the oldest students in my personal trainer/nutrition consultant certification class. My young whipper-snapper of a workout partner the other day, asked me when I started running. I had to tell him, "Before you were born." That hurt.

It's funny hearing the 18-, 19-, and 20-something-year-olds in the class talk as if when you reach your 40s you're basically washed up. I and the students older than me in the class (in their 50s) quickly correct this thinking. But, it is funny how so many young folk and even some seniors think you're doomed after 40, 50, or 60. These doomsdayers need to meet a group of senior ladies from my church that are some serious walkers. These ladies can book! I dare say they could teach those youngsters a few things.

Well, one thing I've noticed as a runner, is that the competition doesn't get easier as you age. Matter of fact it intensifies! In my 30s, I often placed in my age group. Now that I'm in my 40s it's getting harder and harder to place. And, not because I'm getting slower. Oh contraire...my competition is getting faster! 50+ year-olds running sub 20-minute 5Ks! I'm having to find more and more small-town races with fewer people in order to place. Ha!

My original thinking was that, if you're still running in your 40s and 50s, the fair-weather runners have been weeded out and the ones left are hard-core. That may be a factor, but I ran across some interesting research that says older runners actually pick up speed quicker than younger runners. So, instead of getting slower, in many cases, they're getting faster!

Peter Jokl, M.D., professor of orthopedics, and his co-authors, Paul Sethi, M.D., and Andrew Cooper, all of Yale School of Medicine did a study that showed marathon runners 50 and older, and female athletes in particular, are showing greater improvement in running times than younger runners.

Jokl and his colleagues looked at the running time, age, and gender of all of the runners in the New York City Marathon (415,000 runners total) from 1983 through 1999. In addition they evaluated the performances of the top 50 male and top 50 female finishers by age categories. They classified Master Athletes as those 50 and older.

The study showed that women marathon runners ages 50-59 improved their average race time by 2.08 minutes per year. This was a lot greater than male runners of the same age whose running time improved on average about eight seconds per year. However, older male runners increased their running time at a much greater rate than younger male runners (ages 20-30). The younger runners (male and female) did not significantly improve their running times.

Who had the most significant trends in improved running times? Surprisingly enough, the study showed that the most significant time improvement occurred in the male category age 60-69 and 70-79, and for women ages 50-59 and 60-69. Grandma and Grandpa, you rock!
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[ Click here ] to check out a post from my blogger friend, Thomas, about how masters ultra runners are getting better with age too!
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