Getting older, getting slower

As we grow older, I’m sure it’s inevitable that we will get slower, but is there a rough average of how much speed you’re likely to lose within say 1, 3, 5 years? I’m talking specifically about running.

I’m mid-50s and don’t think I’m ever going to beat my best marathon time, which was only 5 years ago. I plan to work on strength over winter to try and run a decent marathon time next year.

Any tips/advice welcome.

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the sharp decline comes after 60.

up until then I was pretty much consistent in pace on run and bike throughout my 50s - probably quickest around 53-56 but that was when I was doing most training.

someone flicked a switch when I turned 60 and it’s been a gradual decline since. health and subsequent lack of motivation in recent years hasn’t helped, but even allowing for that, that switch was definitely flicked!!

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It really depends if you’re a Late Adopter. If you’ve been doing sports since your 20s/30s then you will notice a decline earlier. If you can go faster in your 50s than your 30s, then something is amiss. The relative decline for me was mid 40s i.e. when someone flicked a switch. You have to bare in mind I’ve been at it since my teens, and still have a young family now, so priorities, as well as dwindling motivation.

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Having been sh1t all my life, it’s quite possible I could set PBs as a pensioner!

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I used to be able to run a sub 40 10k in my sleep! Now I’d have to train (specifically) for it.

Everyones peak potential for endurance performance will likely be somewhere in their early-mid 30s. Question as to what age you’ll reach your personal decline is more based on when your reach your training peak. Eg if you’re new to sport at age 35 you’re at 50% of your 100%. Whereas 10 years of training might have you achieving 90% of your current potential by age 45, but by then your perfect best has dropped to (say) 90-95% of what it could have been 10 years earlier.

I’d suggest there’s a plateau from 28-36,very slow decline to 45, then getting exponentially faster decline in peak performance the older you get.

Everyone’s curve is going to be slightly shifted left and right in terms of age they can maintain close to their theoretical physical peak performance, but also by how far up their own curve they are to reaching their personal peak based on training history. Hence some might last til they’re 40 and decline, some until they’re 55 if they came in late.

For running as a single sport at least you can go off the age graded guides as to maintaining same % of ability to give you a guide on expected slow down compared to WR standard.

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Interesting. I have been doing sport all my life at varying levels depending on sport but always keeping fit. For me there was a big switch from doing a lot more shorter intensity type of thing, all while playing local league football but the fittest on my team, to cycling in my mid-30s and triathlon in late 30s-early 40s. Nothing to do with my age but change in interest. I always fancied doing triathlon but was really enjoying football and lots of gym work so didn’t want to change. My swimming and cycling are getting better and running is not getting any worse, yet. Although I haven’t been properly fit since covid hit, so maybe I am?

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Really interesting topic & seems like some great experiences shared in the 50+ thread.

My ponderings: guess it’s inevitable that the absolute limits of physiology decrease with age, but perhaps there some workarounds

If your previous PBs are soft enough for some reason, you can find new ways to improve. Eg. For me, my half marathon PB of 1h22 was set aged 33. Aged 45 and again aged 46 I knocked out 1h24s, and once am again training with this sort of range in mind. I dunno if I’ll get close to that PB aged 48, but I’ll give it a shot & hope to get under 1h25. The difference is that these days I train more consistently, have less life stress now the kids are older & work is more established, have a regular training partner and a club, have new toys like Strava, treadmill, training peaks/ runalyze etc & am always looking for new stuff to try. Oh yeah, and special shoes :athletic_shoe::athletic_shoe:.

At some point I guess a biological limit is hit, although I bet most of us never get near it for perfectly good reasons. And actually I suspect it’s not normal or even always very healthy to hit those limits. So while beyond a point there may be no more absolute PBs, age graded PBs are always out there aging at the same rate we do. I have seen run performances creep slowly up from about 70% age graded to almost 80% age graded over the last 15 years & this feels pretty motivational.

At the end of the day we are not pros, winning races doesn’t pay for our lunch, and just being healthy and fit enough to be able to get out there and knock out a 20 minute 5km aged 50 (or whatever) should feel like a pretty sweet thing I reckon. Times and PBs/ age gradings are just one facet of the game :+1:

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I really only started this endurance sport thing at 39 (started from a ‘run a marathon before I’m 40 thing). Trained fairly seriously from 40 as I decided go after a London Mara GFA/sub 3:15.

I improved every year until 49-51 - cycling PBSs every distance, still running 3:10 maras, two sub 10 IMs. That was the best of times - I was strong, motivated, resilient. Could train very hard and repeat day after day; I may have trained TOO hard.

But 52 noticed a decline, 53 and 54 I’ve noticed that decline accelerate. It’s now harder to motivate, more rest is required and a creeping feeling of frailty.

But Hell, M55 next year and if I can keep fighting the decline they’ll be silverware to chase against similarly declining decrepit old sods….:grinning:

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I can so a sub 40 10k in my sleep, no wait I mean in my dreams. Can even remeber what my PB is 4x. That was years and many kg a go

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I think it depends. I’d agree with you if we’re talking about the same sports. I’m in my (I think) 38th year of sports now but they’ve been different.

I used to run to stay for for moto racing, then to stay fit for surfing but I was never a serious runner. I did become a fairly serious racing cyclist (relatively late of course) and definitely an AO swimmer.

I’m not running faster in my 50s than I was 15 years ago but I am improving with age, post spine ops and I’m putting that down to more of a singular focus.

I’ve always been a ‘bit of everything’ with set periods of single sport focus. Cycling power has dropped off a cliff though.

Motivation is an increasing problem for me for longer sessions & events. It doesn’t take a massive amount of training to do a reasonable 70.3 if you’ve got a good few years of endurance in you.

Also find that doing out and out intervals is harder, but that could just be the last 18 months with less targets and not knowing if race X will even happen. Ignoring the injuries etc.

However, I have different ways of doing the harder sessions, Zwift and parkruns etc., both can be pretty savage if you put enough into them.

I’m hoping to get to the bottom of my issues and see where I am for next year but it does depend on a better winter and less niggles.

I’ll be 52 next year but still hoping I can fight off the decline a bit longer, as Jorgan said I was 40 before I started taking things seriously so was probably beyond my absolute peak but kept improving until even 2 years ago.

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You’re younger than me… I know you have a young family and different priorities right now, however, with training and rebuilding that base you could still set PBs if you wanted to and were able to train 15 hours per week for a couple of years

I can easily run sub 40 10ks, and you could too.

I dont necessarily think that it is the right thing to do, there are no health benefits for setting PBs into your 50s (maybe mental health benefits).

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As a late starter, I do wonder if I have hit my peak… I would certainly not be disappointed as I have achieved way more than I ever thought possible.

I have no desire at all to go faster on my 5km, I probably could but get injured too easily so I am happy to chase longer distances… I suspect that this will be the story of my 50s

It’s hard to use me as a guide, went well at 20 and 48…

In the middle i put on lost 25+ kgs of muscle so any times carrying that are irrelevant I’m guessing.

My swim times ironically are exactly the same 31 years later, cycling 5%? Down… running… don’t ask.

I’ve really felt the decline in measurable fitness in the last 2? Years.

But at nearly 53 the difference in 50-55 and 55-60 times more than make up for this.

It’s who slows down the slowest that wins our game now.

I wondered that myself. I had a good season in 2016 and did quite well in some events\races and tolerated a lot of training.

But then set most of my running PB’s in 2019, not all were because of Nike trainers, also set a 100M PB by a few minutes. Same bike but some different kit, conditions possibly helped.

I doubt I’ll knock big chunks off my 5K these days as well, it would take a lot of effort but I seem to not have a big dropoff in pace from 5K to 21K for example. And on trail races between 2-5 hours I seem to be able to hold a reasonable level of effort (when I’m not injured!)

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It’s an interesting thread and I am wondering where I sit in this. I agree with @jeffb and @Matthew_Spooner that although I taken part in triathlon of varying distances for 16 years, I am faster now than I have been in the last 10 years setting PBs in the last year and knowing there is more to come. For me the key aspect was changing from long course to short course and following my coaches instructions to the letter.
Sometimes I kick myself and think what if I had focussed and followed the right plan for me. If I can run close to 16:xx for 5 and 35:xx for 10km now what could have done when i was younger. My mindset is now in the place of being the best I can be in my AG whatever race it is. The training hurts more but I have to do that and get past it to keep in the top group in the running club the others are in their 30s. For the next few years I’ll continue to push if I have the right motivation, my son can ride and run close to my level at 17 at the moment I’m just ahead and that is my motivation and it drives us both to work hard. He is taller then I am so I have to have something over him.

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It’s easy to think about what might have been if I had started in my 20’s (and swimming much earlier). However, the reality is that there is a still a gulf between my performance and a top pro. I would almost certainly have been able to achieve a higher level in my 30’s than my level now, I suspect that I would have been at the top of my AG rather than at a pro level. Even in the off chance that I could have made it to pro level, it would have been a BOP pro, and not really provide a real income.

I am happy that I am close to the best in my AG, even though I age up next year. I will be happy if I can maintain a position at the pointy end of the my AG for however long I continue racing

I train with a guy called Cecil Wheeler, who went to Kona in 2014. He is now 53 and has just won the Swiss Half Marathon Championships in his AG, running in 1h15m04s, he is running in Berlin next week and aims for a sub 2h40 marathon PB. I also ride with a guy called Giuliano Fronzaroli, he is 69 and earlier this year did a sub 1 hour 40km TT PB. Cecil Started in his early 40s, Giuliano in his late 50s. I wonder if people who started later actually become faster in their 50’s and beyond compared with people who started in their 20’s and 30’s and have “worn” out their bodies by the time that they are older

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My old sometimes coach, Allan Pitman has been to Kona I don’t know how many times, 20 odd I think. He’s in his 70s now and has just started to have some issues in the last 18mths but he was racing for years.
Total old school guy, hard as nails, landscaper by trade. Never won his AG at Kona that I’m aware of, came 2nd once or twice.

AP is on at 1.27.30

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Impressive. I think that he is now 74 and started at 42 (based on an article I just read). So started at a similar age to me. If my future looked like this, I would be delighted

edit: no plans to go to Kona 20 times, and I have lots of non Ironman aspirations

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