Since getting into this running blog thing, I’ve developed the mildly addicting habit of reading other running blogs. One of the side effects of reading running blogs is poring over race results (nerdy, I know), because every time a blogger tells me his/her time in a specific race, I rush to see the overall results of said race. This little impulse occurs for two reasons: I am interested in how fast the winners are, and I am interested in seeing where I *might have* fallen. I pay particular attention to the top finishers in each gender age division. Here is what I’ve discovered about marathon times:
Normally, and not surprisingly, the fastest age group is 25-29. The ordering of the age groups by speed follows as expected (with the exception of the 20-24 group) after 25-29, but something extremely interesting is that the winners of age groups 30-34 and 35-39 are often within one or two minutes of the 25-29 winners – sometimes within seconds. Age groups 30-34 and 35-39 are also faster than 20-24, and even age groups 40-44 and 45-49 are often within 10-15 minutes of the 25-29 group. Around the 55-59 and 60-64 groups is where the times start to slow down significantly, but even still, the top men and women in these categories are running times below the Boston Qualifying time for someone half their age.
Info courtesy of http://www.ingnycmarathon.org/Results.htm.
While it is tempting to pout about the fact that I have almost zero chance of winning even an age group medal for the next 30 years, I just can’t feel sorry for myself. I find these observations to be incredibly encouraging! They tell me that I have 10-15 more years to get faster, 15-25 years of staying competitive with women ages 20-50, and a lifetime to run. Of course, I have to stay healthy and not get too badly injured. But in theory, I can keep doing this incredible sport into my very distant future.
If I look at these results from a less selfish point of view, I think they have the even bigger message that anyone can become a marathoner. The decision to run does not have to be made as teenager or young adult – it can be made at any time. There are, absolutely, more health concerns if the decision comes later. Having not yet experienced life with 40+ years, I don’t want to minimize the fact that it is harder to start running later in life; but with the supervision of a family doctor and a running plan that builds up mileage conservatively, it can be done. More importantly, people do it. And here’s the proof:
Graph courtesy of http://www.runtri.com/2010/08/chicago-marathon-average-finish-times.html
Something worth pointing out is that I posted the times for the top finishers in each age group at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon and that this graph is about the average finishing time in each age group at the 2010 Chicago Marathon. Granted, these are from different races, but the top finishing times and the average finishing times at big races are going to be comparable. So, I want you to notice that the average finishing time per age group is more than two hours slower than the top finishing times in each age group. Translation: There are people running marathons that have times nowhere near the fastest runners, and yet, they run anyway.
I have, on numerous occasions, struggled with feelings of inadequacy – especially when it comes to running and math. We are often tricked into thinking that it’s only worth doing something if you can be one of the best. This is a lie. Great runners (or mathematicians, or whatever) are things of beauty, and their intensity and abilities are certainly something to marvel over. But the runners at the back of the pack are inspirations in a totally different way. They are the ones that will forever invite non-runners into the club, show that having the title ‘runner’ has nothing to do with finishing times or body type and everything to do with your will to do it. That’s beautiful too.
I did a treadmill speed workout yesterday and as the title of this post implies, I did some 800m repeats. I warmed up for about 10 minutes, then started the repeats. I ran each 800 in 3:30 (7 min/mile pace), walked for roughly 0.07 mile, and then ran at 8:30 pace until I had covered .25 miles. Basically, .5 miles fast, .25 miles rest. Then I repeated 6 times. It felt great. I was reminded that will forever be in love with 800’s. I did sweat a tremendous amount because the temperature was in the mid 70’s and I was inside (the a.c. has not yet been put at full blast at my gym), but aside from the embarrassment of being that sweaty girl at the gym, I left feeling happy. I should also mention that this workout leaves no room for boredom on the treadmill, and the time passed incredibly quickly. (See? I still have some treadmill love after the 18 miler!)