Masters runners (runners over the age of 40) are fastest growing demographic in running. An article written by Gretchen Reynolds (that appeared in December 21st, 2011 New York Times Well Blog) quotes French research that studied New York City Marathon finishers. Dr. Romuald Lepers, one of the authors: "The percent of finishers younger than 40 years significantly decreased, while the percent of master runners significantly increased for both males and females."
Even more impressive - the French study also found that in recent years, the average finishing time of the fastest men runners age 60+ decreased by 7%; older women’s times dropped a whopping 16%!!
On a related note, research has great news for older runners who aim to improve their running and racing!
It was commonly believed that running economy (one’s ability to utilize oxygen at a given pace) decreases with age. The higher your running economy, the less oxygen you require to run at a given pace. Therefore, an "economical" runner can continue running at a given speed for a longer period of time than her less economical counterpart. Running economy is reliable indicator of distance race performance.
Reynolds cites research conducted at the University of New Hampshire (published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research) that lays this myth to rest. Dr. Timothy Quinn, the study’s lead author: "Contrary to our beliefs, economy did not decline with age". Being able to utilize oxygen efficiently, middle aged and older runners are capable of fast running and race times.
However, not all is gold for older runners. The same article reports of a study published in the September/October 2011 "Current Sports Medicine Reports" by the American College of Sports Medicine, showing that runners age 40+ are more prone to Achilles, hamstrings and calf injuries than younger runners. "The normal wear and tear that occurs with training seems to take greater time to repair with aging, and older runners continue running at a frequency similar to that of younger runners."
The picture that emerges is crystal clear: Middle age and older runners that train wisely follow a program that is designed specifically for them (not for a younger runner!) with sufficient built-in rest and recovery can run faster while reducing their risk of injury.
For plenty of success stories from women over 40 that will inspire you, click on Racing Your Personal Best.
Dr. Lepers: "Older runners have probably not reached their limits in marathon performance".
We echo the same sentiment - for all distances, not just for the marathon.
Now that’s something to look forward to!
© 2014 Savvy Runner Inc.
Bennett Cohen and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners. For access to resources to help you reach your goals for running and racing, visit www.IAWR-Connect.com..