Introducing the Age-Old Runners Series Version 2.0!

Welcome to the Age-Old Runners series version 2.0!

The original goal of this series was to explore runners’ potential as we age. We attempted to ask and answer questions like, can you run faster after the age of 45? For how long can you expect to improve? How does the number of years you’ve been running affect your potential? Are there commonalities between older runners who are performing close to their potential? Is there a magic elixir they’re all using?

iRunFar's Age-Old Runners series concept on a napkin

Some napkin ruminations about age and athletic potential. Photo: Liza Howard

Thus far in the Age-Old Runners series, we’ve interviewed 18 high performing runners aged 45 to 74, and published a beautiful photo gallery of hundreds more of you.

As the series went along, it became clear that:

  1. There is some stout age-group racing going on;
  2. Recognition of age-group performances is motivational and causes us to redefine what is possible; and
  3. We’re mostly in the dark about the outstanding performances and efforts within masters running in our community.
Nimiye Anthony

Nimiye Anthony. Photo courtesy of Nimiye Anthony.

We decided that we should get to work in better recognizing these runners, their performances, and their goals. Through this, the Age-Old Runners series version 2.0 was born! We hope that as you learn runners’ race stories, you’ll come to care about what’s going on in age-group racing. We plan to introduce you to a runner one month as they prepare for an upcoming race and, then, report on their race the following month. We’ll also try to highlight the age-group racing and adventuring that’s going on from month to month.

A note about who qualifies to be highlighted in this series: I’ve chosen to include runners ages 45 and up even though USA Track & Field (USATF) and the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) define masters runners as ages 35 and above. The choice is based on years of coaching conversations with runners in their forties telling me how they can’t do a certain race or a certain time because they’re too old now. Also, racing coverage really seems to decline starting after age 45. For the record, though, the choice is somewhat arbitrary and, lest anyone’s hackles are up, nobody is calling you old.

George Greco

George Greco. Photo courtesy of George Greco.

We’ll need your help to let us know who is doing what as we get to know this part of our community and create a fan base, so use the comments sections of these articles to leave us tips! We’ll see how this format goes, and I’ll depend on you all for suggestions as we go along. In the best of all possible worlds, we’ll continue to grow this coverage with time. Maybe we need to approach Epsom salts for sponsorship?

And, finally, we want you to know that we simply can’t cover every age-group runner at every race we highlight. This article would go on forever! But we’ll try hard to do age-group running right by highlighting trends and sharing information you might not be familiar with in this article each month.

Cheryl Miller

Cheryl Miller. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Miller.

Age-Old Runners May 2021 Racing Highlights

Here we share interesting timed-race format results from 3 Days at the Fair and the age-group records being chased there, stories of age-group runners increasingly taking on the rugged Quad Rock 50 Mile and 25 Mile, and age-group runners going the 250-mile distance at the first-year Cocodona 250 Mile. There’s a special surprise if you make it all the way to the end of this article!

3 Days at the Fair — Augusta, New Jersey

3 Days at the Fair took place at Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, New Jersey. Even though it’s called 3 Days at the Fair, the event holds races ranging from a marathon distance up to races 144 hours in length. (Yes, 144 hours is six days of running. That’s a thing.) I wanted to highlight this timed event both because there were some great performances by masters athletes and because I wanted to share how stout the age-group records are in these timed events.

Beth Pretti, who is 52 years old, was first female in the overall women’s race at the 12-hour event. She ran 59 miles. So good! I’m guessing you, like me, were unaware that the IAU women’s 50-54 age-group record for the 12-hour distance is about 82.15 miles (132.202 kilometers). Talk about goals!

Todd McAuley, also 52 years old, came in second in the overall men’s race by running 61 miles. The IAU men’s 50-54 age-group record is about 91.64 miles (147.480km). Think about that! When was the last time you ran over 90 miles in 12 hours?

In the 24-hour event, Mary Warts placed second female in the overall women’s race. She is 46 years old and ran a solid 109 miles. The IAU women’s 45-49 age-group record is about 158.64 miles (255.303km). Incredible. Suzanne Weightman, age 57, placed third while running 91 miles. That IAU record for the women’s 55-59 age group is a whopping 135.34 miles (217.811km). Goodness.

In the six-day event, Brad Compton, 66 years old, came in third in the overall men’s race, running 411 miles. What was your mileage last week? Those 411 miles give Bob the USATF men’s 65-69 age-group record, which had previously been held by Bill Heldenbrand since 2014.

Here are links to the USATF records for timed events as well as IAU world records.

Full results.

Bob Compton and Glenda Hernandez at the 2021 3 Days at the Fair

Brad Compton with Glenda Hernandez at the 2021 3 Days at the Fair where he ran the six-day event. Photo courtesy of Glenda Hernandez.

Quad Rock 50 Mile and 25 Mile — Fort Collins, Colorado

The rugged Quad Rock 50 Mile and 25 Mile out in Fort Collins, Colorado has a lot more grandmasters runners these days than when it started back in 2012. Grandmasters runners are 50 years old and older. (Dibs on this name for my blog reboot when I turn 50 in February.)

Ivan Rezucha ran the 50 miles and 11,000 feet of vert in 13:34:24. He’s 68 years old and already holds the fastest time for men’s runners ages 65-69, which he set in 2018 with a 13:01:49. Quad Rock currently only documents age-group records in 10-year increments, but based on your input earlier in this series, I’ll always try to break things down to five-year increments.

Sarah Bunting Lamos, age 46, ran the 50 miler in 10:57:13, less than 15 minutes off the fastest time for 45-49-year-old women and she placed in the top-10 overall women.

In the 25 miler, Wayne Coates, age 73, climbed the race’s 5,500 feet in 8:00:07. That is the fastest a man aged 70-74 years old has covered that route. Mary Gilbert, age 71, also set a new fastest time for the women’s 70-74 age group, running 12:05:39. Congratulations!

Full results.

Wayne Coates at the 2021 Quadrock 25 Mile. Photo courtesy of Wayne Coates.

Cocodona 250 Mile — Black Canyon City, Arizona

Pam Reed and Robert Pardy respectively set a high bar for the women’s and men’s 60-69 age-group records at the inaugural running of the Cocodona 250 Mile, which stretched across a wide swath of hot Arizona desert and mountains. Pam Reed, age 60, finished in 108 hours, 53 minutes and 13 seconds—that’s about four-and-half days of running—to set that women’s record. Robert Pardy, age 61, established the record for the men at 103:05:26.

Full results.

Robert Pardy at the 2021 Cocodona 250 Mile

Robert Pardy at the 2021 Cocodona 250 Mile. Photo courtesy of Robert Pardy.

Keys 100 Mile — Key West, Florida

And finally, because some of you asked, I was the first woman at the Keys 100 Mile. I’m 49—going on 109—and ran 17:49. I did not win the sunscreen-application competition. You can read my race report.

Full results.

Liza Howard's sunburn from the 2021 Keys 100 Mile

Liza Howard’s sunblock DNF. Photo: Eliot Howard

Call for Comments

  • Age-group runners, let us know what races you’re looking at this summer and how you do.
  • And, as mentioned, comment to let us know about other age-group runners who are pursing goals of all kinds.
Liza Howard

is a longtime ultrarunner who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She teaches for NOLS Wilderness Medicine, coaches, directs the non-profit Band of Runners, and drives her kids around in a minivan.

There are 33 comments

  1. Martin

    Age group designations at the (long defunct) Elkhorn 100k, held in the Elkhorn Mountains near Helena, MT, included “Super Masters” for ages 50-59, and “Super-duper Masters” for 60+.

    1. Liza

      Super and Super-duper Masters! That is excellent. We need t-shirts. Maybe we should rename the series Super Masters…

  2. Douglas Kretzmann

    in the bad old days, S. Africa in the 80s, there were three categories – veterans over 40, masters over 50, grandmasters over 60. Ten-year age groups are OK up to 50 but after that there are real changes in 5 years, so I’m happy to have the new standard at five-year.

  3. John Vanderpot

    For reasons that strike me as dubious at best, my neck of the woods (SoCal) doesn’t appear to be opening up (in terms of organized, official events) any time soon, so I’ve sort of been on the lookout for some other projects and the best one I’ve come up with so far is to help some of the “kids” (you know, folks in their 30s and 40s) get their fitness/health back, my 2 highlights thus far include a single mom doing a virtual 100-mile challenge and a former 350 lb. workaholic doing his first marathon, so I’d say this “super master” (turned 58 the other day) is doing just fine!

    1. Liza

      Excellent projects, indeed! Let me know if you want to help me lean on RDs to include age group records on their websites. ;)

  4. Wes

    Liza, I enjoy your column, but please don’t relegate us older folks to the “age group competitive” category before we’re in the grave. ;) We always have a fighting chance until we decide we don’t. Our odds of winning just get a little lower each year, that’s all. One need only look on Ultrasignup at the Top Performances categories for men and women in Candice Burt’s 200-milers to find examples of 45+ and even 50+ year olds who were not only competitive with the 20-somethings in the year they ran the race but whose performances still stand up. In fact, that very same Pam Reed you mentioned is sitting comfortably (or running comfortably?) with the 2nd fastest female performance ever at the Moab 240. She did it at the age of 56, and I think we can excuse her for not being faster than Courtney. Keep up the great articles!

  5. Liza

    Thanks so much for this comment, Wes. It’s a good one. I think it’s more that I’ve been learning that the age-group records that are out there are quite stout, and they’re fun to think about when setting goals. Like you said, in some cases the age-group records are also podium spots. It seems like knowing what those records can be both inspirational and useful to folks when they think about what 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 year-old bodies are capable of. So it’s meant to be more “Look what’s possible” rather than “this is all that’s possible.”

  6. KristinZ

    I love this column!
    I’m cracking up and cringing and nodding my head in understanding at your fab sunblock post-application photo… congrats on the super speedy win!

    Check out Ras Vaughn and Kathy Vaughn of ultra pedestrian lore—he just won his 8th 200 mi or so? They’re super inspiring folks getting it done in the >45 age group.

    1. Liza

      Thanks, Kristin. I was pretty happy to be able to share this sunblock horror photo with a wider audience. I also forced my students to look at it when I taught burns this weekend.

    1. Liza

      You two and Jeff are worth your weight in gold. Maybe it’s a sunblock brand issue. I could do ads. Definitely use this brand on the left.

    1. Liza

      Thanks so much for sharing this link, Elizabeth. And congratulations!!!!!! Wow. “”I think one of the [finishers is] 25 and I’m not sure about the other one but definitely old enough to be my son.” What’s on your schedule next?

      1. Elizabeth Woodgate

        Next weekend lining up for a 48hr Adventure Race on the NSW North Coast, continuing to explore new places with great friends….

  7. Jeff

    It’s worth mentioning that Liza’s recent amazing victory at the 13th annual Keys100, at 49 and by almost an hour over the next female, apparently made her the “most mature” female winner ever!

  8. Crystal C

    I love, love, love this so much!! It is incredibly motivational and inspirational to see what’s happening in the “masters” world. First participation in some of these events is amazing enough but seeing some of those records is just straight-up mind-blowing – especially in a sport where it is known to eat its young. Seeing these incredible athletes have lifelong careers just fills me with such appreciation and awe. This sport something I want to absolutely something I want to be a part of for the rest of my life and it wonderful to know there is a world full of role models out there.
    Thank you for shining a spotlight on this!

    1. Liza

      Thanks, Crystal! I’m hoping folks will share some of their upcoming goals here, so we start following and cheering.

  9. Joseph

    This series is ultra-wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing it gain broader attention as an inspirational perspective on human potential. And I’m predicting Underoos makes a big comeback with “Masters of the Ultraverse”.

  10. Troy Windsor

    Brad Compton is a great guy. So stoked for him about that new record!

    PS: You switched his name to Bob when mentioning his USATF ag record & in the caption of the photo.

    PPS: Awesome start to the new version of this series of articles. Congratulations on your win at Keys 100!

  11. Sarah

    Olivier Leblond set his 24h PR of 171.18 miles at the age of 47, his 100 mile PR of 12:41:57 at the age of 48, and just won his sixth Old Dominion 100 at the age of 49. Next weekend at the Dome he will attempt to break his 48h AR of 262.18 miles, which he set at age 45. While the times/mileage are noteworthy in and of themselves, the fact that he is setting PRs eleven years into a running career that started at age 38 is, well, pretty amazing.

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