Do older athletes reach limits in their performance during marathon running?

INSERM U, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Burgundy, Dijon, France.
Age (Impact Factor: 3.45). 05/2011; 34(3):773-81. DOI: 10.1007/s11357-011-9271-z
Source: PubMed


In the last decades, the participation of elderly trained people in endurance events such as marathon running has dramatically increased. Previous studies suggested that the performance of master runners (>40 years) during marathon running has improved. The aims of the study were (1) to analyze the changes in participation and performance trends of master marathon runners between 1980 and 2009, and (2) to compare the gender differences in performance as a function of age across the years. Running times of the best male and female runners between 20 and 79 years of age who competed in the New York City Marathon were analyzed. Gender differences in performance times were analyzed for the top 10 male and female runners between 20 and 65 years of age. The participation of master runners increased during the 1980-2009 period, to a greater extent for females compared to males. During that period, running times of master runners significantly (P < 0.01) decreased for males older than 64 years and for females older than 44 years, respectively. Gender differences in running times decreased over the last three decades but remained relatively stable across the ages during the last decade. These data suggest that male (≥65 years) and female (≥45 years) master runners have probably not yet reached their limits in marathon performance. The relative stability of gender differences in marathon running times across the different age groups over the last decade also suggests that age-related declines in physiological function do not differ between male and female marathoners.

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Available from: Romuald Lepers, Oct 02, 2014
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    • "The finding that age group athletes became slower in the mountain marathon 'Jungfrau Marathon' is controversial to reported findings for a large city marathon such as the 'New York City Marathon' (Jokl et al. 2004; Lepers and Cattagni 2012). The most likely explanation for this difference in the fact that we included all recorded finishers for each age group for our analysis while Jokl et al. (2004) considered the fastest 50 women and men for each age group and Lepers and Cattagni (2012) the ten fastest women and men. "
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    ABSTRACT: Participation and performance trends for age group marathoners have been investigated for large city marathons such as the 'New York City Marathon' but not for mountain marathons. This study investigated participation and trends in performance and sex difference in the mountain marathon 'Jungfrau Marathon' held in Switzerland from 2000 to 2014 using single and mixed effects regression analyses. Results were compared to a city marathon (Lausanne Marathon) also held in Switzerland during the same period. Sex difference was calculated using the equation ([race time in women] - [race time in men]/[race time in men] × 100). Changes in sex differences across calendar years and were investigated using linear regression models. In 'Jungfrau Marathon', participation in all female and male age groups increased with exception of women in age groups 18-24 and men in age groups 30-34, 40-44 and 60-64 years where participation remained unchanged. In 'Lausanne Marathon', participation increased in women in age groups 30-34 to 40-44 years. In men, participation increased in age groups 25-29 to 44-44 years and 50-54 years. In 'Jungfrau Marathon' runners became slower across years in age groups 18-24 to 70-74 years. In 'Lausanne Marathon', runners became slower across years in age groups 18-24 and 30-34 to 65-69 years, but not for 25-29, 70-74 and 75-79 years. In 'Jungfrau Marathon', sex difference increased in age groups 25-29 (from 4 to 10 %) and 60-64 years (from 3 to 8 %) but decreased in age group 40-44 years (from 12 to 6 %). In 'Lausanne Marathon', the sex difference showed no changes. In summary, participation increased in most female and male age groups but performance decreased in most age groups for both the mountain marathon 'Jungfrau Marathon' and the city marathon 'Lausanne Marathon'. The sex differences were lower in the 'Jungfrau Marathon' (~6-7 %) compared to the 'Lausanne Marathon' where the sex difference was ~10-12 % from age groups 18-24 to 55-59 years. These unexpected findings might be a typical Swiss phenomenon. Future studies need to investigate whether this trend can also be found in other endurance sports events held in Switzerland and other mountain marathons held in other countries.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · SpringerPlus
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    • "A masters athlete is defined as an older athlete who specifically trains for and competes in organized sport (Reaburn & Dascombe, 2008). Over recent decades, masters athletes have been increasingly participating in endurance-type sports such as marathon running (Lepers & Cattagni, 2012) and Ironman triathlon (Lepers et al., 2013). For example, significant increases in participation rates have been noted at both Ironman Switzerland (Stiefel et al., 2014) and the Hawaii Ironman world championship (Lepers et al., 2013) over a 16-and 25-year period to 2010, respectively. "
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    ABSTRACT: Participation rates of masters athletes in endurance events such as long distance triathlon and running continue to increase. Given the physical and metabolic demands of endurance training, recovery practices influence the quality of successive training sessions, and consequently, adaptations to training. Following muscle-damaging endurance exercise, research suggests masters athletes experience slower recovery rates in comparison to younger similarly-trained athletes. Given these discrepancies in recovery rates are not observed following non-muscle-damaging exercise, it is suggested that masters athletes have impairments of the protein remodeling mechanisms within skeletal muscle. The importance of post-exercise protein feeding for endurance athletes is being increasingly acknowledged, and its role in creating a positive net muscle protein balance post-exercise well known. The potential benefits of post-exercise protein feeding include elevating muscle protein synthesis and satellite cell activity for muscle repair and remodeling, as well as facilitating muscle glycogen resynthesis. Despite extensive investigation into age-related anabolic resistance in sedentary aging populations, little is known about how anabolic resistance affects post-exercise muscle protein synthesis, and thus muscle remodeling in aging athletes. Despite evidence to suggest physical training can attenuate, but not eliminate age-related anabolic resistance, masters athletes are currently recommended to consume the same post-exercise dietary protein dose (~20 g or 0.25 g/kg/meal) as younger athletes. Given the slower recovery rates of masters athletes following muscle-damaging exercise, which may be due to impaired muscle remodeling mechanisms, masters athletes may benefit from higher doses of post-exercise dietary protein, with particular attention directed to the leucine content of the post-exercise bolus.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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    • "It has been shown that race times in endurance and ultra-endurance events increased in a curvilinear manner with increasing age [3,7-11]. In these studies, data from runners older than 25 years sorted in 5-years age groups were analysed. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background The aims of the study were (i) to investigate the relationship between elite marathon race times and age in 1-year intervals by using the world single age records in marathon running from 5 to 93 years and (ii) to evaluate the sex difference in elite marathon running performance with advancing age. Methods World single age records in marathon running in 1-year intervals for women and men were analysed regarding changes across age for both men and women using linear and non-linear regression analyses for each age for women and men. Results The relationship between elite marathon race time and age was non-linear (i.e. polynomial regression 4th degree) for women and men. The curve was U-shaped where performance improved from 5 to ~20 years. From 5 years to ~15 years, boys and girls performed very similar. Between ~20 and ~35 years, performance was quite linear, but started to decrease at the age of ~35 years in a curvilinear manner with increasing age in both women and men. The sex difference increased non-linearly (i.e. polynomial regression 7th degree) from 5 to ~20 years, remained unchanged at ~20 min from ~20 to ~50 years and increased thereafter. The sex difference was lowest (7.5%, 10.5 min) at the age of 49 years. Conclusion Elite marathon race times improved from 5 to ~20 years, remained linear between ~20 and ~35 years, and started to increase at the age of ~35 years in a curvilinear manner with increasing age in both women and men. The sex difference in elite marathon race time increased non-linearly and was lowest at the age of ~49 years.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014
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