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Open Access Research article

Relationship between age and elite marathon race time in world single age records from 5 to 93 years

Beat Knechtle12*, Hervé Assadi3, Romuald Lepers3, Thomas Rosemann1 and Christoph Alexander Rüst1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Primary Care, Zurich, Switzerland

2 Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland

3 INSERM U1093, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Burgundy, Dijon, France

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BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2014, 6:31  doi:10.1186/2052-1847-6-31

Published: 31 July 2014

Abstract

Background

The aims of the study were (i) to investigate the relationship between elite marathon race times and age in 1-year intervals by using the world single age records in marathon running from 5 to 93 years and (ii) to evaluate the sex difference in elite marathon running performance with advancing age.

Methods

World single age records in marathon running in 1-year intervals for women and men were analysed regarding changes across age for both men and women using linear and non-linear regression analyses for each age for women and men.

Results

The relationship between elite marathon race time and age was non-linear (i.e. polynomial regression 4th degree) for women and men. The curve was U-shaped where performance improved from 5 to ~20 years. From 5 years to ~15 years, boys and girls performed very similar. Between ~20 and ~35 years, performance was quite linear, but started to decrease at the age of ~35 years in a curvilinear manner with increasing age in both women and men. The sex difference increased non-linearly (i.e. polynomial regression 7th degree) from 5 to ~20 years, remained unchanged at ~20 min from ~20 to ~50 years and increased thereafter. The sex difference was lowest (7.5%, 10.5 min) at the age of 49 years.

Conclusion

Elite marathon race times improved from 5 to ~20 years, remained linear between ~20 and ~35 years, and started to increase at the age of ~35 years in a curvilinear manner with increasing age in both women and men. The sex difference in elite marathon race time increased non-linearly and was lowest at the age of ~49 years.

Keywords:
Running; Sex difference; Performance; Boys; Girls; Master runner