Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cradle to the Grave

I came across one of the more interesting lists of records I've seen. As runners we generally run against the rest of the field and then as we get older in age groups, mostly in 5 and 10 year blocks from 40 upwards. I'm now 46 so am technically racing against men in the 45-49 age group, but most races in the US give an award to the first 'master' ie runner 40 and older. Then there are age group awards (normally a ribbon) for 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, and so on.

You never just race against other 46 year olds. Race presentations go on long enough with the 5 year age batches (sometimes presenting awards to the top 5 in each group!). However, there IS an age record for each age from 5 years old and up. Until common sense prevailed, "runners" as young as 5 ran marathons. I'm finding it hard to get my head around a parent letting their 5 year old run a marathon, but apparently it happened in the not too distant past. The complete list is here

Bucky and Jennifers parents; well....
Now you can play a neat game; When would your personal best have earned you a world best, both retrospectively and into the future. So my marathon PB/PR is 2.50.47. Pretty speedy I thought. But not as speedy as 11 year old Wesley Paul who ran a 2.47.17 in 1969 (incidentally when i was two and readying myself for my race debut as a 5 year old, no doubt).

So I can't feel THAT bad about that, as I was a late starter and therefore hadn't reached my peak at 11. I do still run marathons and am in reasonable shape for a 46 year old. Maybe I'll have a crack at it this year either before my May birthday or in my 47th year, when I might have an even better chance? Unfortunately the then 46 year old Reuben Chesang Kambich ran 2.15.24 in 1960 (who said Kenyans have only been running fast marathons for 20 odd years?) and the 47 year Jackson Kipngok Yegon ran a 2.16.20 in 1962. I'm 40 minutes off the pace not likely to make that up anytime soon.

So lastly lets see how long I have to keep my current PB form to content for a world best. 50, 60, 70? At 67 I can have a crack at Luigi Passerini's world best of 2.51.07. Only 20 years to stay in PB shape; A very lofty goal. And then theres the redoubtable Ed Whitlock who has the oldest sub 3 marathon, aged 74 years and 35 days. Beyond belief!

92 year old Gladys Burrill finishing a marathon
Try this yourself. It's fun to see how far we are off of the elite young and older athletes.

This chart surfaced following a column by Geoff Roes on the racing lifespan of ultra runners HERE. Looking at the list again there are very few runners with age best many years apart or even who appear numerous times in the list (Ed Whitlock being a notable exception). Durability at distance running seems a problem. Right now there are many examples of ultra runners who have just crashed and burned after a number of high mileage, high intensity periods of training and racing. Geoff Roes was one. Three or four years ago he seemed unbeatable at 100 mile races. Watch Unbreakable if you get a chance, it is (even for a running film) a great account of the 2010 Western States where Geoff was out for the count and somehow managed to claw his way back. It gives me goose bumps now just thinking about it. It's shot beautifully and gives the essence of trail running.

Fauja Singh a 100 year old marathon runner and holder of 90 year old marathon best of 5.40.04
Geoff, and I have the same opinion that the human body is like a car which only has a certain number of miles on the clock. Once you've used up those miles, it's over, or at least your days of speeding around are gone. I haven't seen any specific studies, other than a few using muscle biopsies of elite athletes. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence of previously elite athletes losing a massive amount of speed. Not from tradional injuries but rather from extreme fatigue or just a lack of being able to get anywhere near the numbers they used to. As a later convert to running (1996-2014?) I'm hoping my body is at least a Ford and not a Trabant....

1 comment:

  1. OK Ian first up you want to be a Volvo P1800 (1966) it's the car with the most mileage on the clock...

    Now I look at myself and I know if I took a month off and then training like the days of old I could run a sub 33 10km race. (last year I ran 33:25) Now with a best 32:00 I don't think I've lost to much speed. as for the marathon, I have a 2h32, and while I havent really put together a good marathon in the last couple of years (to busy racing every else) I think I have a 2h38 in my legs, but again I would have to focus on it...

    Now what ever happened to those kids, Bucky Cox and Wesley Paul? were they still running in their 20's or 30's? did the fact that they were running marathons so early in life hurt their growing body?