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Age - more than a number?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 55,337 ✭✭✭✭walshb


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    Diver is 2:24:15 and from this year!

    Been many years since Lizzie ran 2:32. Certainly didn't run it at 39!

    Different leagues entirely.

    I didn't think Diver was that low....thought 2.34 or thereabouts.

    Yes, from earlier this year she got to 2.24.......great time.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,449 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    As one of the more ancient people around here, I feel I should chime in. ;)

    I'm often told by younger runners that age isn't a performance barrier, to which my answer is usually "Talk to me in 20 years."

    There's no question that age affects performance. It's a simple fact that aerobic capacity declines. Training becomes more exacting, recovery period is longer, injury risk is greater - the latter also affected by natural decline in flexibility and increasing muscular atrophy. A look at age grade records will show that performance tends to decline from mid-late 30s, slowly at first and then the rate increases quite rapidly with advancing years. It's beyond argument. Of course there are superb performers at every age (like Diver, Gough etc.) but they are the exceptions, not the rule. And that's good, because they are the ones setting the standards.

    That's the downside. Many of us ageing hobbyists and club runners can continue to post improvements despite being late starters because, starting from scratch, good training produces performance results in excess of the natural rate of decline, at least until we hit the plateau. When do we hit this? I suppose it depends on many factors, including the inevitable point that the faster you improve, the sooner the graph lines (increases due to training vs decreases due to decrepitude) will converge. I started at 50 and 8 years later I'm seeing those improvements harder and harder to achieve, although as beep beep says, specialising in a distance will perhaps lead to a longer period of improvement - being a bit better at one event vs being average in them all. I know I can definitely get faster at all distances, but the days of rapid improvement and big gains are gone. Smart training will certainly help the small improvements, and for me age grades are more motivational than raw (often unachievable) time targets.

    Psychological factors? With age can come a degree of wisdom but I don't see this translating into 'smarter' running - regardless of age, you'll get better at racing the more you race and the more you practice race technique. If anything, younger runners should be able to push themselves further - more strength, less awareness of mortality, etc. I don't see how age leads to smarter racing - experience certainly helps, and older people are SOMETIMES more experienced, than their younger competitors, but not always.

    To sum up - age is definitely more than a number, but performance is relative and hard work can counteract natural decline. Up to a point. Smart racing is more due to experience and learning ability than the age number.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,340 ✭✭✭corcaigh07


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    About 2 miles between those runners to be fair.

    Sinead is 42. She'll be 43 in Tokyo which is some going, but she doesn't have the mileage on the body the way most 42/43 years old athletes have.

    Oops, edited my post. Lizzie Lee might not be quite as quick as Diver but running 2.35 last October to finish 3rd in Dublin was still exceptional.

    Women in particular seem to be amazing at finding their peak at distance running in their late 30’s after child birth etc is all out of the way.


  • Registered Users Posts: 55,337 ✭✭✭✭walshb


    corcaigh07 wrote: »

    Women in particular seem to be amazing at finding their peak at distance running in their late 30’s after child birth etc is all out of the way.

    But it is no their true peak.......it's the best they can do at that point in time.

    Paula ran WR aged 29 or so, and this was pre giving birth to her children.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    Murph_D wrote: »
    As one of the more ancient people around here, I feel I should chime in. ;)

    I'm often told by younger runners that age isn't a performance barrier, to which my answer us usually "Talk to me in 20 years."

    There's no question that age affects performance. It's a simple fact that aerobic capacity declines. Training becomes more exacting, recovery period is longer, injury risk is greater - the latter also affected by natural decline in flexibility and increasing muscular atrophy. A look at age grade records will show that performance tends to decline from mid-late 30s, slowly at first and then the rate increases quite rapidly with advancing years. It's beyond argument. Of course there are superb performers at every age (like Diver, Gough etc.) but they are the exceptions, not the rule.

    That's the downside. Many of us ageing hobbyists and club runners can continue to post improvements despite being late starters because, starting from scratch, good training produces performance results in excess of the natural rate of decline, at least until we hit the plateau. When do we hit this? I suppose it depends on many factors, including the inevitable point that the faster you improve, the sooner the graph lines (increases due to training vs decreases due to decrepitude) will converge. I started at 50 and 8 years later I'm seeing those improvements harder and harder to achieve, although as beep beep says, specialising in a distance will perhaps lead to a longer period of improvement - being a bit better at one event vs being average in them all. I know I can definitely get faster at all distances, but the days of rapid improvement and big gains are gone. Smart training will certainly help the small improvements, and for me age grades are more motivational than raw (often unachievable) time targets.

    Psychological factors? With age can come a degree of wisdom but I don't see this translating into 'smarter' running - regardless of age, you'll get better at racing the more you race and the more you practice race technique. If anything, younger runners should be able to push themselves further - more strength, less awareness of mortality, etc. I don't see how age leads to smarter racing - experience certainly helps, and older people are SOMETIMES more experienced, than their younger competitors, but not always.

    To sum up - age is definitely more than a number, but performance is relative and hard work can counteract natural decline. Up to a point. Smart racing is more due to experience and learning ability than the age number.

    Indisputable that age is a barrier to performance.

    Age grade tables on the other hand I've little time for.

    Came across this post from letsrun that explains it better than I could.

    "The main problem I have is that any kind of grading system (Mercier tables, age-grading, etc) is that they depend on the idea that levels of competition are equal in different events/age groups. This neglects the substantial effect of sociological variables on competitive depth.
    For example, even if age had no effect on performance, you would still expect most races to be won by people 18-25. In this age range, most people won't have families or high-responsibility jobs, so you'd expect a large number of competitors training at a relatively high level. Once you hit 35-40, there will be far fewer people training at a high level, since work and family are going to be higher priorities in their lives. Thus the decrease in average 10K time between the 2 age groups is not simply a reflection of physiological degeneration due to aging."


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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,449 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    Indisputable that age is a barrier to performance.

    Age grade tables on the other hand I've little time for.

    Came across this post from letsrun that explains it better than I could.

    "The main problem I have is that any kind of grading system (Mercier tables, age-grading, etc) is that they depend on the idea that levels of competition are equal in different events/age groups. This neglects the substantial effect of sociological variables on competitive depth.
    For example, even if age had no effect on performance, you would still expect most races to be won by people 18-25. In this age range, most people won't have families or high-responsibility jobs, so you'd expect a large number of competitors training at a relatively high level. Once you hit 35-40, there will be far fewer people training at a high level, since work and family are going to be higher priorities in their lives. Thus the decrease in average 10K time between the 2 age groups is not simply a reflection of physiological degeneration due to aging."

    Have no problem with most of that, except for the last bit. Age grades are not based on average times. They are based on the world record time for the age. It’s the ratio of your time to the WR. Is it not reasonable to assume that the WR is the best reflection of what’s potentially possible, taking everything into account? If the age WR is soft due to lack of depth, surely it will soon be lowered? Remember these are based on single-age records, so the category members turn over every year.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    Murph_D wrote: »
    Have no problem with most of that, except for the last bit. Age grades are not based on average times. They are based on the world record time for the age. It’s the ratio of your time to the WR. Is it not reasonable to assume that the WR is the best reflection of what’s potentially possible, taking everything into account? If the age WR is soft due to lack of depth, surely it will soon be lowered? Remember these are based on single-age records, so the category members turn over every year.

    WRs across various masters categories may be in line with each other (or may not be) but these WRs just can't be compared to senior WRs. 99% of the best senior athletes pack it in before masters. The depth in masters can never be compared to seniors.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,449 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    WRs across various masters categories may be in line with each other (or may not be) but these WRs just can't be compared to senior WRs. 99% of the best senior athletes pack it in before masters. The depth in masters can never be compared to seniors.

    Of course (and that’s quite a separate point from the one quoted above.). But anyway for hobbyists like ourselves, I think it’s a reasonable means of measuring progress, rather than fixating on times. A sub-20 5k for instance is a much better achievement at 50 than 30, and the age grade reflects that better than the raw time.

    Anyway we have made these points to each other before and, eh, talk to me in 20 years. ;)


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,340 ✭✭✭TFBubendorfer


    Generally you can expect to improve for about the first 10 years of your running, no matter what age you started (that's assuming you start as an adult, obviously). Age definitely does have a negative effect eventually, and it's quite telling that most of the best master runners are the ones who have started about 7-10 years earlier.

    Obviously there are exceptions to this, including some of the posters here.

    While I tried not to think about this as the years went on and the clock was ticking, my own running followed the exact same pattern. Steady improvements for 10 years and then ... feeling old, feeling tired, getting slower.

    Recovery takes much longer when you're older, and speed workouts are particularly tough on the body. Injury risk does increase as well, though that is somewhat related to that slower recovery.

    While it is true that endurance holds better than speed, lack of speed will still have an effect even on long distance races. Getting old sucks but eventually you learn to accept and get used to it.

    I don't think emotional maturity has much to do with it, though.


  • Registered Users Posts: 183 ✭✭Strawberry Swan


    Really interesting thread, thanks for starting V :)

    As I understand from your last post, you want to understand why someone older than you is faster than you in the same races even though you both started running at the same time?

    For a start this could be biased thinking, that out of ALL the older people you know, you are focusing on the ones that are better than you rather than the ones who are similar or worse than you? Also, are they faster than you in all the race distances, flat and hilly?

    In my opinion, there are a myriad of possible reasons to account for a better performance. Aerobic endurance from other events counts for a lot. For example, have they played GAA since there were kids or have been cycling for years? This would also lead into stronger more flexible muscles, knowing their body's limits, better nutrition management. There are also the variables of lifestyle, injury management, running economy, strength training, cross training, speed sessions as well as the obvious mileage volume.

    I honestly don't think it has anything to do with maturity! EVERYONE wants to quit when it gets really tough, that's natural. I think this shows how hard you push yourself more than anything else. And as long I've known you on boards, you haven't yet quit and and you have achieved amazing times in very tough conditions.


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