I’ve been meaning to produce little graphs show age related decline in running (based on the 2006 WAVA tables), and I finally got around to doing it.
Age is shown on the horizontal axis (in years), while the vertical axis shows a percentage of the runner’s best time. The blue line is for men, the red for women (the light red line shows women compared to a man’s best time, instead of to her own).
Now if you look at the first graph, for the mile, both sexes have a long peak in their twenties and then begin a long, slow decline. The decline appears basically linear and it is very similar for the two sexes.
The marathon graph looks weird though.
People have been racing the mile distance forever. The Greek Olympics had races ranging from 200m to a 5K (roughly). Presumably we know how to do it.
But a 42K footrace is a relatively new idea. It started with the first of the modern Olympics. Oh, of course it commemorated the runner who announced the winner of the battle of Marathon — but that wasn’t a race. There’s a big difference between running 40K and racing it. And women have only been allowed to race marathons since 1980 or so.
My first thought was that older women just don’t have the training to run marathons well. They weren’t allowed to when they were young, so how could they?
But it’s not the women’s graph that looks odd, it’s the men’s. The marathon is the distance at which women come closest to men (The women’s world record for the marathon is 92% of the men’s record, while the women’s mile record is 89%).
Perhaps men haven’t figured out how to run the marathon yet, and only the 75 year old runners among us know how to do it right?