The Aging Athlete (5) ENDURANCE – 1500M

Photo courtesy of Rob Jerome

It’s time now to see what aging does to our ability to continue on at an above “normal” pace … our endurance. And the 1500m (the “metric mile”) is as good a place as any to start that analysis.

While the 1500m certainly packs a speed element into it, by far the bigger slice of success revolves around the endurance component. Look how John Walker (never the quickest thoroughbred on the course) uses his superb endurance to win the 1500m in the Montreal Olympics.

That’s all fine and good! But once we have endurance, how long do we hold on to it? And to what extent? How fast does it slip away?

First, let’s look at the trend of the 1500m as we age. This chart shows the trend of the AVERAGE “best performance” times from mastersrankings.com (2013-2016). [For new readers to this blog and the background behind this site, you can go here to read and understand how the statistics I use are pulled together.] The chart compares Men’s and Women’s 1500m averages over time. Get a blown up look at the chart by clicking here.

MW 1500m

All times are in seconds.

You will probably note, both the Men’s and Women’s curves are quite flat in the beginning. For Men, the average ANNUAL decline is somewhere around 1/2% (see the table below)  until M45 .(Note the “annual” decline I refer to is simply the arithmetic average of the loss of performance from the previous age-group divided by 5. It’s not foolish to assume the majority of that decline is in the final 2 years of the age-group, while the first 2-3 years’ performance hit is likely to be much less pronounced.)  At M50 the yearly decline doubles to 1%+ up to M60, then edges upward until it reaches over 2% at M75, then over 3% annually thereafter.

.For Women 1500m runners, the average ANNUAL slowdown begins very much like the Men. Performance slips 1/2%-3/4% every year until it hits 1% at W55. Then the decline reaches 1.8% (W60), eases back smartly at W65 (1.25+%), and then starts to increase again thereafter You can see all the details in the table below..

Age-GroupMen's Avg 1500mM Avg Decline per YearWomen's Avg 1500mW Avg Decline per Year
M-W 354:48.68
n/a5:40.28
n/a
M-W 404:55.40
0.47%
5:46.87
0.39%
M-W 455:03.32
0.54%
5:58.94
0.70%
M-W 505:18.34
0.99%
6:12.08
0.73%
M-W 555:36.20
1.12%
6:31.57
1.05%
M-W 605:58.07
1.30%
7:07.06
1.81%
M-W 656:30.39
1.80%
7:34.08
1.27%
M-W 707:03.01
1.67%
8:28.48
2.40%
M-W 757:47.97
2.13%
9:44.77
3.00%
M-W 809:00.69
3.11%
10:42.29
1.97%
M 8510:32.50
3.40%
n/an/a

To sum up on our ability to hold our endurance … we lose 1/2%-1% per year until we hit age 55. Then the next 10 years (Men to M70) our performance will decline somewhere between 1.3% and 1.8% annually. In our 70s the performance decline gets a little faster … 2%-3% per year.

You know what? That’s really not too bad at all!

Next we will go into more detail on the Men’s 1500m

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