Marathon time chasing days are over

Male and female athletes' race time according to their age. Credit: UCJC

In 2014, Spanish researchers from Camilo Jose Cela university in Madrid have demonstrated that the relationship between marathon running times and the age of the athlete is U-shaped. The work shows the unusual fact that it takes an 18-year-old athlete the same amount of time to finish a marathon as a 55- or 60-year-old runner. The study was based on a database with the times of more than 45,000 runners who took part in the New York marathon in 2010 and 2011. (Study source: Study source: Science Daily)

That's besides the point because I started running seven years ago at the age of 43. And at the age of 18, I believe I was still partying and not knowing what running was. 




What I'd like to point out is that all studies show clearly that performance in long-distance races decreases progressively from the age of 25 onward.

In a few more days, I will be reaching 50. 

As you can see from the chart, the decrease in performance takes an even more drastic drop from age 50 onward.

Sub-4.30-hour marathon time chasing days

I have been chasing for my personal best times in marathon running. 

I still remember during my first full marathon at Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon held in June 2012, I managed to achieve a net time of 4 hours 38 minutes. I guess it wasn't that bad for a 45 year-old full marathon virgin! 

Since then I'd been attempting to break sub 4:30 (below 4 hours 30 minutes) inspired by Oprah Winfrey's marathon time at Chicago Marathon. 

It took me one and a half year and four more full marathons to achieve it in Taipei in December 2013. I believe even that sub 4:30 marathon time was aided by cool, windy and raining weather. I might not have even achieved it if it were to be held in hot and humid Kuala Lumpur.

I was 46.

Sub-4.00-hour marathon time chasing days

If you think chasing times to break sub-4.30-hour in marathon was tough enough, then chasing times to break sub-4.00-hour in marathon was even much much tougher! Not only that, to break sub-4.00-hour and consistently run sub-4.00-hour marathons thereafter can be very stressful, pressured and mentally torturing!

I've put in so much effort in clocking weekly running mileage, correcting poor running forms, adapting more efficient running techniques, understanding how body works better in order to chase after that illusive sub-4-hour marathon. 

Finally at the age of 48, I finally managed to achieve my first ever sub-4.00-hour marathon at Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon held in January 2015. That too was aided by the cool weather in Hong Kong. 

Despite the fact that I still managed to achieve eight (8) more sub-4.00-hour marathons thereafter, I have found it to be getting harder and harder to run a full marathon below four hours.

I'm very grateful that I still managed to do it at such old age.

Marathon time chasing days are over!

With the fact that performance in long-distance races takes an even drastic drop from age 50 onward, I still find it difficult to accept the fact.

I can try all I want - intensifying training program, more training, improving running techniques, and improving nutrition intake, but I doubt I'll be able to run the way I used to.

It's not one of my happier realities, but that's what happens when I get older.

Am I ready to accept that reality?

Very hard. Very very hard. Very very very hard.

I feel sad. I wish I could still squeeze more energy out of my running to achieve personal best times.

But I know I need to learn to accept the reality!

Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. Time has been moving ever forward without a moment of rest. I have no choice but to get used to that reality. 

Well, not only me, we all need to get used to that reality one day! My days are sooner than yours probably! No one can fight against time!

Running beyond 50 

Running is my passion.

Chasing after better marathon times helps me to continue to learn, to improve, and to become better.

When I can no longer improve my marathon times, is there a reason for me to continue learning? 

Yes, there is.

I need to continue to learn how to run effectively to prevent injuries. 

I need to continue to learn about nutrition so that I have more energy to run.

I need to keep telling myself that competing against time isn't important anymore. 

Forget about achieving a 3:45 hour full marathon! 

Forget about Boston Marathon!

What's going to be much more meaningful now is how much I can enjoy myself, whether I can finish 42 km with a feeling of contentment.

I should be thankful that I can still run.

Cheers to new meaning in running! 


Written by Vincent Khor on September 11, 2017

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