The aim of this study was to examine the interaction between aging and 10 years of racing in endurance runners. Race-time data from 194 runners who had completed 10 consecutive 56-km ultramarathons were obtained. The runners were either 20.5 ± 0.7, 30.0 ± 1.0, 39.9 ± 0.9, or 49.4 ± 1.0 years old at their first race. Each runner’s race speed was determined for each race over the 10 years. Data were analyzed using repeated-measures ANOVA, one-way ANOVA, and independent t tests and showed that performance improved and declined at greater rates for younger runners; younger runners had a greater capacity for improvement than older runners; ≈4 years were required to reach peak racing speed, regardless of age; it was not possible to compete at peak speed for more than a few years; and the combined effects of 10 years of aging and racing neither improve nor worsen net performance. In conclusion, these data suggest that although these runners showed similar patterns of change in race speed over a 10-year period, the extent of change in performance was greater in younger than in older runners.
The authors are with the Dept. of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Newlands, 7725, South Africa.