The Aging Athlete (2) – 100m

How do Sprinters age? When does the aging effect on our speed really begin to increase its decline? Is the timing different women vs men? It’s probably neither consistent nor smooth. I’ve often heard it said that we, on average, lose 1% a year. Is this speed? Or endurance? Or both? I don’t know, but let’s see what the data appears to say.

I’m going to start with the 100m, which should be a good reflection of how “speed” declines with age.  I am using the duncanSCORE data base which contains 8,626 Women’s 100m entries up to and including W75 and 21,540 Men’s 100m performances (from mastersrankings.com for the years 2013-2016) used to calculate our scores and percentiles (if you are interested, you can get the details of the data processing here). Beyond W75  and M85 the numbers of performances are too sparse to use in our analysis.

The above graph may be a bit small to view properly. Here it is in full size Average    

What we see are some differences Women (in green) vs Men (in blue). Both genders decline in performance (vs the previous age group) generally about the same rate until “55”. This is shown in the tabular section under the graph lines and is labeled “% to Prev” (the percentage decline vs the previous age-group).   At that stage Women slow down 6.6% vs W50s, while M55s are averagely 3.99% slower than M50s.

The Men’s slowdown continues to accelerate (reaching 6.74% slower than the previous age group at M65), but then a sort of miracle happens! See where the blue line flattens a bit? The Men’s rate of decline (3.07%) is less then half the previous, but then accelerates much faster at M75 onward.

Women get their “mini miracle” to happen at W65. There the speed decline does indeed decline (to 4.74% from 6.29%), From there as you can see in the graph, the line begins its 45 degree upward slope. The Men’s roughly 45 degree slope commences at M75.

That’s it in a nutshell. I hope I haven’t bored you to tears, because the next posting will look at the Women’s 100m in more detail.

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Similar Thinking

Picture from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), distributed by United Artists

Sometimes it feels a bit lonely. Like being in the wilderness and shouting alone. To the best of my knowledge, creating and using a “standardized score” for Masters Athletics has not been done before. Previously, I outlined the reasons that led me on this path.

While I might think it’s pretty darn logical to wonder how you rank within your peer age group, traditional age grading has been in use for 30 years or so, and even if its creation is often misunderstood, and one of the most common ways it is used not approved, it nonetheless is ingrained in Masters athletics. It’s why I term the duncanSCORE an alternative. Not a replacement.

And that’s why it’s interesting and a breath of fresh air to find others who share much of my thinking. A young athlete (Alexis Spinetta) has put up on her blog a very good critique of age grading and done some pretty cute calculations to derive aging tables for marathoners. Check out their thinking here … http://agegradecalculator.comabout.php. 

16 years of finishers’ times for the Austin, Texas marathon have been combined and analyzed into some pretty interesting statistics. And try out your marathon finishing time in their calculator to see how you compare against your age cohort from Austin finishers, and all other finishers.

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