Sacramento Running News

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Why are Runners Slower Today?

September 23, 2013 By: John Blue Category: General Running News, Masters Runners



Some years ago, I was at an awards ceremony after a local ten-mile race when they called up the winner of the men’s 20-25 division. He’d run the race in 72 minutes. Not a terrible time, but hardly a prize-worthy one, considering the masters runners (40+) were running significantly faster.

As the runner went up to collect his prize, a 50-year old friend sitting nearby turned to me and said, “When I was his age, I ran 55-minutes at this race and didn’t get squat!”

My 50-year-old friend isn’t the only one noticing this change.

Kevin Helliker, writing at the Wall Street Journal has this to say:

Saying I finished in the top 15% of my age group in last month’s Chicago Triathlon is like bragging that I could outrun your grandpa. My age group was 50 to 54.

But against the entire sprint-distance field, I finished in the top 11%. That’s right: Team Geriatric outperformed the field.

I’d love to report that this reflects the age-defying effects of triathlon. But my hair is gray, my hearing is dull and my per-mile pace is slower than it used to be, even at shorter distances.

So why are runners today slower than they were in the 70s and 80s? (Oh! The kids of today!)


4 Comments to “Why are Runners Slower Today?”

  1. i think it’s mostly because most running events nowadays are just that – events. not races. you’ve got fun runs left and right. 5k doesn’t mean 5000m any more, it means 2.5-3.5 miles.

    we need fewer fun runs, and more races. forget the band, forget the t-shirts, forget the gatorade stations in the 5k. make races about racing, not the funding.

  2. There are so many races today, which is a good thing, that often times the fastest runners may choose races a part of Pacific Association series or other grand prix schedules. On the upside, I think the increase in participation at fun runs is terrific – more people making the choice to run/race, as part of an active lifestyle.

  3. Perhaps the reason could be that more people are becoming health conscious and are running primarily for that reason than to achieve a certain finish time, so for them, it doesn’t matter what their PR is. Since there are now more runners doing events with families & pets than in previous years, it makes more business sense for organizations “cash in” on the current trend. But that’s not a bad thing overall because it’s a win-win for both funding groups & the participating public. Basically, the present mindset of running seems to be geared towards fun and “friendly oriented” than pure competition.

  4. Gary Lotspeich says:

    ‘Cause they ain’t tough like we was back in the day. Why, I remember in’70- something there was a race where we had to run over broken glass — barefoot! Did we complain? NO! And we didn’t have any fancy power juice or gator squeezins. Naw, man, we all drank kerosene afterward to recover — and liked it! We were a different breed back then.


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