The Aging Athlete (6) – Men’s 1500m

Photo Courtesy Doug Shaggy Smith

Based upon the previous post, we have learned that 1500m Male runners’ performance after age 35, on average, tends to decline about 1/2% per year until M50. Then the erosion in time increases to about 1% annually until age 60. From there it jumps to over 1% a year.

Comparing the “average” male’s declining times versus the declines seen in the World Record (which form the basis of the age-grading curve) is a bit of a two-step process. Bernard Legat holds the the WRs for M35 (3:32.51 at age 36) and M40 (3:41.87 at age 40), followed by the UK’s Anthony Whiteman (M45), and David Heath (M50) and Australia’s Keith Bateman (M55) and the US’s Nolan Shaheed (M60).

It’s interesting to track the “gap” between Mr. Average and the WR. All through the M30s, M40s, and M50s, the “gap” (as measured by the percent the average is slower than the WR) is a pretty consistent 33%. From M60 on the average man slows down at an increasing rate vs the Legats of the world so that by age 85 we are 63% slower. You can see this in the chart below.

Click    Mens1500m                          to blow it up to full size and look at the pinkish bars on the bottom of the chart. They track in percentage terms how much slower the average is than the WR.

But let’s dig a bit deeper. Let’s look at the 90th percentile*. These are the top 10% of 1500m runners in the world in their age group. The 90th percentile for M55 1500 is about 4:37.65. How well does the 90th percentile of 1500m runners (essentially those who could possibly medal at an Outdoor World Championship … see here how I arrived at that conclusion) fare? Well blow up that chart again.    Mens1500m

Below the pink bars tracking Mr. Average’s greater times than the WR you will see a line called “90th PC Diff (%)” … the percentage slower than the WR of the 90th percentile runner across the age-groups. Note how consistent it is right up to M85 … 11%-14% slower right through time. The top 10% runners really are different! Right through until their mid 80s they hold their relative performance versus the absolute best in the world.

So if the 90th percentile pretty well tracks the WR decline in performance, where does the “royal jelly” in endurance begin to slip? On the chart, just below the 90th percentile you can find the 75th percentile, which is about 5:25.59 for M60. The 75th percentile is about what it takes to qualify for a World Championship final in the 1500. For the 75th percentile, the difference vs the world record also tracks pretty darn consistently until M60. From there the percentage behind the WR increases by 2 points or so every age group. The royal jelly is seeping out. It is somewhere around here at M60 that tracking the WR begins to no longer truly reflect “everyman’s” changing performance in an endurance event through time.

Where does that leave us? I suggest you find out exactly where YOU are. What percentile is your 1500m? To find out just just click below, select your age-group from the drop down menu, select event (e.g. 1500m), and then enter your time in minutes, seconds, and hundredths of seconds. Then click the green “Ok … Done … Go” and see your standing.

Track DE

Once you know your percentile, peruse the following table. It gives the average ANNUAL decline in performance over time for the 90th percentile, the 75th, and the 50th (the average man). Your standing is probably close to one of those, so you should be able to roughly establish what kind of decline in your 1500m time you can expect over the next few years. (One proviso. I suspect that you will decline less in the first year or two of an age group, and then probably a greater percentage loss as you get to the latter years of the age-group.) After age 60 you probably should not be upset if your age grade no longer is holding with previous years. You likely are maintaining your standing among your non-elite peers.

Men's 1500m Trends and Average Annual Decline in Performance

Age-GroupWorld RecordAvg WR Decline in Performance/YearAvg 90th PC Decline in Performance/YearAvg 75th PC Decline in Performance/YearAvg Male 1500 (50th PC) Decline in Performance/Year
M353:32.51
n/an/an/an/a
M403:41.87
0.88%
1.18%
0.81%
0.47%
M453:50.55
0.78%
0.72%
0.63%
0.54%
M503:58.26
0.67%
0.60%
0.80%
0.99%
M554:12.35
1.18%
0.63%
0.88%
1.12%
M604:24.00
0.92%
1.35%
1.32%
1.30%
M654:39.87
1.20%
1.16%
1.50%
1.80%
M704:52.95
0.93%
1.31%
1.50%
1.67%
M755:22.40
2.01%
1.46%
1.82%
2.13%
M805:47.35
1.55%
1.53%
2.35%
3.11%
M856:27.30
2.30%
4.11%
3.74%
3.40%

Good luck!

Next up more information on Women’s 1500m.

To be notified immediately for the next post, click on the “follow” button at the bottom right of your screen OR become a duncanSCORE friend on Facebook here 

  • * It is important to realize that when I refer to “90th and 75th percentiles” these are statistical reference points and do not necessarily refer to actual performances or averages of actual performances.

3 thoughts on “The Aging Athlete (6) – Men’s 1500m

    • You are absolutely right Josh! Thank you so much for catching that (now I know someone reads this stuff). I have corrected the error. Too much looking at multiple sheets and transposing data … hoist on my own petard so to speak. Luckily I did my calculations properly (against Legat’s 1500m times) so all should be good there. Thanks again!

  1. Pingback: The Aging Athlete (7) – Women’s 1500m | duncanSCORE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *