Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 3 Apr 2001 08:47:59 -0400

Join the Club


If you live and run long enough, you might do what the world record-holders can't. That's outsprint your age.

Canadian reader Chris Garrett-Petts asks, "Have you read of the 400-meter club? To qualify you must run faster in seconds than your age is."

I've heard of it. But no one in the RC crowd is likely to join, if only because so few of us ever run an all-out lap at any age.

Then again, Michael Johnson will never qualify either. He'd have to break his world record by eight seconds before retiring this year.

This club favors older men. A man stands no chance of qualifying until his early to mid-50s, and very few women can ever join.

Another exclusive club, probably forever to remain male-only, could honor heavy marathoners. Members would have to run a time in minutes that's lower than their weight in pounds.

Few runners could do this since it would mean breaking 2:10 at 130 pounds, 3:00 at 180 or 3:30 at 210. The best chance would be for a man weighing 140 to 160 to run between 2:20 and 2:40.

For best combining weight and speed, Derek Clayton would be the honorary president of this club. The former world record-holder from Australia weighed 160 when he ran his marathon in 128.6 minutes.

To open a similar gap, a 130-pounder would have to run an impossible 1:49. Yet a 210-pounder might match Clayton's time span by breaking three hours.

Let's get out of this subject by proposing a club that many of us could join. It would be open to anyone who could run fewer minutes in a 10-K than their age in years -- breaking 40 at 40, for instance?

Here's an assignment for someone statistically inclined: List the runners, male and female, who've beaten their age by the most in a 10-K. I suspect they would be well up in years.

A man of 27 or a woman of 31 would be the youngest able to qualify now. But the times get easier to achieve with age.

Even I have done it, with age first exceeding time at 37 (a year when my fastest 10-K sneaked into the 36s). My 10-K'ing all but stopped soon afterward, but now the soft target of 57 minutes begs to be hit.

Running a 10-K on or near a birthday, trying to beat your age, seems a more sensible way for a veteran runner to celebrate than by running a mile or kilometer for each year.

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