Over the past 30 years, the average time it has taken top runners to complete the New York City marathon hasn’t changed significantly — except among older competitors. Since 1980, for example, the average time for the top 10 male finishers between 65 and 69 has dropped from about 3:50 to 3:35; over the same period, the top 10 female runners between 55 and 59 improved their average time from about 4:25 to 3:55. Older runners' numbers have grown steadily as well: Three decades ago, runners over age 40 made up a third of the competitors in the New York race. Today they represent half.
Typical of this new breed of runners is Janet Howe, 52, an attorney in Sammamish, Wash., who ran her first marathon at age 47. “With my kids getting older, I entered a new phase of life,” she says. “I had extra time to pursue other hobbies and discover things about myself.” In the past five years, she's completed 18 marathons.
Why Running Is Good for You at Any Age
The success of older runners reflects a broader societal shift toward people living longer and healthier lives. But it also confirms mounting scientific evidence that aerobic exercise, like running, can not only "delay the onset of age-related muscular atrophy, it also strengthens brain cells," says Mark Mattson of the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore. "Running even stimulates the production of new nerve cells in some parts of the brain.”
Don't miss out on MORE great articles like this one. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Photo courtesy of Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com