Way back in my triathlon days, my coach, Troy Jacobson, told me that on average, most endurance athletes can expect about 10 years of improving race times, no matter what their age when they start. I thought that was pretty cool, then.
Today, 15 years later and at age 47, well, it’s not so cool. Because if you go by that, my days of PRs should all be behind me. But I’m not giving in yet, especially not at the longer distances. And here’s why:
That 10-yr. mark, I’m sure, is fairly true. You can read Joe Henderson’s article on it here. But many things go into play when you look at a 10-yr. span in an athlete’s career. The 10-yr. rule would apply to someone who is training and racing consistently for all 10 years. Many people fall into this nice, 10-yr. pattern, but plenty do not, also.
Using myself as an example, during those 10 years from when I first began, I had two pregnancies. That was not time spent training hard and certainly not time spent racing, at least in my case. Then there is the time when the kids were infants–again, not my most devoted training period. Then you can add in time off for injuries. All told, when you add it up, there were big chunks of that 10-yr. period where I wasn’t training intently.
Another factor I think needs to play in here is how you train. I feel like I just hit my best training cycle ever with the marathon over these past couple of months. I truly believe that in spite of the odds of age and years experience, I will PR this marathon. I have a speedy friend who PRd his marathon at age 50 (a 2:49 at that) and his 10k after that (hi Mick!). He’s still a force to be reckoned with on the master’s circuit. I have another friend who is 55 and I still see her hitting new, speedier numbers, even at shorter distances. She attributes this to changes in diet and training. Both hit these new PRs after years of running.
So yes, on average, you can look at a 10-yr. period of improvement to your racing times, provided you are training and racing consistently during that time. But don’t forget that many factors come into play with any statistic of this nature, and there will always be exceptions to the rule.
What about you–have you been running for 10 years or more? What has been your experience with times as it relates to the 10-yr. rule?