It is often proclaimed that you slow down with age. But one thinks it will happen to others, not to yourself. The reality hits when you train hard for a race and can’t come close to the times that were previously done during training runs! It is especially true after you hit the “50 plus” mark.
Through the years I love to read about running, especially books and articles written by George Sheehan and Joe Henderson. My duathlon career, if I may call it like that, started from a running, rather than a cycling, background. Both writers had advice and wisdom that everyone could learn from.

After this year’s SA Duathlon I almost frantically looked for answers why my running time was so “slow”, although I trained very hard for the race, or so I thought. One tends to look at the problem as a 30 year old! Although factors such as injuries and overtraining played a role, the real answer is to be found in one’s age. In the book of Henderson called Better Runs you will find many answers. There are tables, also to be found at the world masters athletics website (www.world-masters-athletics.org) which are very interesting. I think age groupers can benefit by having a close look at it.

A time of 45 minutes on a 10 km by a 50-year old male “translate” by the grading factor of approximately 0.898 to a time of 40:24. So if you can do a 40 minutes as a 50 year old, rest assured that it is in fact the equivalent of a 36 minutes by a 30 year old, which certainly looks good on paper at least!

At last year’s World Champs the guy from France who won the 50-54 years category, did a time of 35:25 on the first 10 km run. That “translates” to a sub 32 minutes, when the “grading factor” is applied. But there are few athletes who can still run those sort of times after 50. Our own Alec Riddle is one of the few in South Africa who can compete at that level. Point is, the “magic” 40 minutes are not beyond the average age grouper’s reach, especially if the “formula” is applied!

Many factors play a role in an age grouper’s performance after 50, eg. injuries, knee operations, health, etc. But with intelligent planning and the right training formula and program competitive times are still possible.

The same principle (formula) can be applied to one’s cycling times. Fact is, the tables enables one to compare your times with others and with the times that you once  achieved as 30 year old. It will be interesting to see if, when the grading factor is applied to Richard du Toit’s phenomenal time in the 50-54 year category at this year’s SA’s, he was indeed the overall winner!

For age groupers there is the satisfaction that we did not become weak after all these years, but that age has everything to do with it. We can still run PB’s and can still set realistic targets. Our results must only be seen in the right context!

Sydney Gregan

Grading Factors