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Surprising Science

In Running, Age Matters Little

Success in running is not just a mental feat, it's physical, too. And the good news is that science backs up the cliché that age doesn't matter, or at least doesn't matter that much.

What’s the Latest Development?


Researchers at the German Sports University in Cologne have found that age differences among marathon runners have little influence on how fast they can finish a race. “That might explain in part why the running world is growing, and growing older. The number of runners who finished marathons in the United States, where 7 of the world’s 15 largest races took place last year, increased to 507,000 in 2010 from 25,000 in 1976.” Preserving one’s athletic ability late into life is generally a question of nutrition, moderation and discipline. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Contrary to what seems apparent, athletic ability need not drop off dramatically in old age. When it comes to running, having the appropriate gear is almost as important as living healthily. “Arguably the most important tool to keep you running over the years is appropriate shoes.” Koen Wilssens, who runs a chain of running shops, “estimates that 50 to 60 percent of people wear the wrong type of running shoe. … The right shoes won’t guarantee you first place, but the wrong shoes guarantee you a short-lived running career.”


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