Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rave: Masters racing and retired athletes

In recent years, we've seen some phenomenal performances from Master's athletes (over 40).  Here are some mind blowing numbers for y'all:
-2 sub-4:00 Milers at the age of 40.
-sub-15:00 5K at 50.
-sub 35:00 10K at 60.
Most incredible of all is Canadian Ed Whitlock, who clocked a 2:54 marathon at 73 years of age.
Just for fun, I checked out the age graded tables for my Mile time, which is by most tables, my best distance.  The calculator that I used can be found on  The open division is 18-34 then the age grading begins at 35 with the age group record set at 100%.
  My current PR, set at 31 is 5:18, though I firmly believe that I currently capable of better.  I typed in 5:20 at the age of 35, which should be a reasonable target.  The future projections that I found left me pleasantly surprised.
Age 40: 5:31
Age 45: 5:43
Age 50: 5:57
Age 55: 6:12
Age 60: 6:30
I have observed among many runners that performances often decline sharply after 60 so anything beyond that will be a bonus but until then, I should have plenty of good years ahead.
  What strikes me is that from the age of 35-55, I am expected to slow down by 52 seconds over a period of 20 years.  That's an average of only 2.6 seconds per year, which should not even be noticeable from one year to the next.  That's why it really ticks me off when doctors tell a patient in his/her late 30s-early 40s that their chronic fatigue and sudden drop off is merely part of the aging process. 

I recently read a couple of "Where are they now?" articles about Bob Kennedy and Suzy Hamilton, 2 of my favorite American distance runners when I was growing up in the '90s.  Both are in their early 40s and neither is even a semi-serious runner.  Both reported that when running is their job, it loses its fun and indeed there is immense pressure to perform.  Failing to make an Olympic or World Championship team or being ranked outside the top 10 in the world often results in lost sponsorships.  As a result, you must squeeze every last bit of talent out by training upwards of 120 MPW because the difference in making or missing a team could be less than 1 second per mile.  I can understand how easily that could lead to severe burnout.  As a result, very few pros end up competing at the Master's level.  Some stop running altogether.  Hamilton and Kennedy, like most other ex-pros are now merely casual joggers (3-5 easy miles, 3-4x per week, no speed or tempos).  If they were to jump into a race, their results would be rather ordinary.  Above all else, I wish for them to be happy in their many years ahead but to me, it's a little sad to see a man or woman who has given so much to the sport to completely lose their passion for the competition.  The biggest advantage to the sport of running is that it can be done at a high level even at advancing age.  Who ever heard of a 60 year old football player who is even remotely competitive?
As for me, where do I picture myself in 10 years?  I fully expect that my outlook on life will be different at 41.  I hope to be married but am undecided on children. Much of that will depend on how the medical issues play out.  I recognize that within 3-5 years, I will set my last personal record and I will not be able to recover from workouts as quickly as I do now.  I expect to take more rest days and slow the training paces.  However, as the age graded table show, 40 years of age is not a death sentence.  It's no stretch that I will still be capable of 5:30/20:00/42:00/1:32ish, which is still very respectable at any age.

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