Sunday, November 25, 2012

Running and aging performance

Just read a great article by Roy Stevenson in The Colorado Runner Nov/Dec 2012
I wrote a letter to the author and editor. Thought my readers would enjoy the correspondence.

Subject: Letter to the editor on Roy's article
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2012 20:50:18 -0700

Hi Jessica,

I really enjoyed your recent article "Aging and Running, Do we have to get slower" Nov/Dec 2012 by Roy Stevenson.   I found the article motivating and informative. I do respectfully disagree with one part of the training advice paragraph ;

          "Realize that you will not be able to maintain you elite level of training past 50"

I have been running since my 20's and still fit into the high school jeans (thank Gawd for stretchy material;-).

I average 10 miles a day during the spring to early fall season on soft trail runs and drop off to 6 to 8 miles during the darker winter months up here in Winter Park, Colorado.
I recently did a personal best in the half marathon in San Diego (maybe it was the 10,000 ft drop in elevation). 
I accept that most of my runs are LSD (long, slow, distance) with a few spurts thrown in for ego but I ask the question; 
Why not go down with a fight?
I make running a good habit and it is as much of my daily pattern as eating and sleeping. 

I suggest, with no scientific or medical background that 50+ can consistently exercise daily and vigorously if:

*they have the will*
*use excellent running shoes and rotate them often*
*and acutely listen to their body and make reasonable adjustments*

Did Dillion Thomas say it best? "Do not go gently into that dark night."

Keep up the great writing; love the mag.

Claude W. Diamond J.D.
P.O.Box 960
Winter Park,Colorado 80482
(970) 726-7979

Hi Claude & Jessica,

Nice of you to take the time to write this well thought out letter, Claude. 

I have indeed heard of the occasional runner who continues to compete well into his or her 50's and 60's with great success. Clearly you are one of these. My exercise physiology professor at Ohio University, Fritz Hagerman, was also one of this group. Could still run 33 minutes for 10K in his early 50's. 

However, I would add that this is a very small and exceptionally gifted minority. And when we examine the race results of any 10K race, we're seldom (if ever) going to find that the over 50 times are faster than the 40-49 year old group, or the 30-39 year old groups. 

Thus, sadly, performance does inevitably decline in absolute terms, past 50 years compared with younger age groups. Claude is talking about his own relative times improving, versus what I was inferring: that our times will be slower compared with younger age groups.

I should have phrased my sentence thus: "Realize that you will not be able to maintain elite levels of training that will keep us competitive with younger age groups". 

I would also add one other thing to Claude's list. Past 50, runners must to be biomechanically gifted to be able to maintain elite training levels. This makes a huge difference, and I believe that runners continuing to achieve success in older age have significant biomechanical (and muscular) advantages over the majority of runners. 

Hope my small reply is of some value to you, and keep up the running.

Roy Stevenson
Freelance Writer
Ph: 425-770-5181
Hi Roy,

I am honored you took the time to respond to my missive,thank you; you made my Sunday:-)

I am not so sure that I am gifted as I am careful and pace myself accordingly to avoid injuries. I also feel (but cannot prove) that living and training at 9 to 11K feet in a pristine thin air environment with soft running trails might have some effect.  I live in a very small community , yet I see many active senior runners and skiers. Who knows?  Thanks Again Roy
Be Well

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