Most people, including ourselves, wouldn’t consider athletics an extreme sport, so we haven’t covered it a great deal on Silver Grey Sports Club. However, we came across this video of the final of the women’s 100m in the 50-54 age-group from the World Masters Athletics (WMA) meeting in Perth, Australia in 2016. Looking at these athletes you can have no doubt that the strength and fitness required for participating in age-group athletic competition does very much crossover with some of the ideas we believe in - that there is no age limit to keeping your body in exceptionally good shape and enjoying everything that being in the best physical shape brings with it.
This race was won by Julie Brims, aged 50, in a time of 12.39 seconds. This time compares with the existing women’s world record of 10.49 seconds, which was set in 1988 by 28-year-old Florence Griffith-Joyner and which, over 30 years later, still stands as the time to beat. So, in women's athletics there was an increase, between the ages of 28 and 50, of only 1.9 seconds in the time taken to run 100m!
When we study the winning times for the 100m race in each age-group at that 2016 WMA meeting, starting with the 50-54-year-olds, we see that the winning time for each age-group increases by less than one second for each additional 5-years in age, right up to the 85-90-year-olds when the increase from the previous age-group was just under 5 seconds. Essentially, in the 80-85 age group the fastest woman ran 100m in an amazing 16.67 seconds!
This suggests that with the right amount of work it is entirely possible to maintain a very high degree of athleticism into your mid-eighties! How great must it feel to maintain that level of energy up to that age? And even though there was that 5 second increase in the winning time for the over-85’s, the race was won in only 21.15 seconds - that’s still an amazing level of energy that one may aim to exhibit so late in ones life.
Here's a video of another Masters Athletics race, from a different meeting. It is a women’s 400m, also in the 50-55 age-group, and what is unusual about it is that it took place during the World Championships in Beijing in 2015, and was organised by the WMA in conjunction with the IAAF. We think that this race, along with a men’s 800m age-group race at the same meeting, was the first Masters event to have been held within an IAAF meeting.
So if the potential is there for these and other athletes to keep themselves in good enough shape to compete at this level at these ages, the potential is there for anyone at any level to reap the benefits of better strength and fitness at any age. You just have to put the work in.