Having crossed the 40 year mark a few years ago, I have been pleased to see various “older” athletes doing very well in sports. Naturally, Lance Armstrong and Dara Torres have been the ones to get the most attention, but there are many non-professional athletes who are doing quite well at “advanced” ages.
Of course, “advanced” age is a relative thing. In sports, people in their 30s are considered “old”, but in other aspects of life they are considered young. While the idea that 30 and 40 year old folks can still compete against the kids might be surprising, it is certainly surprising that some folks in their 50s and 60s can still give the kids quite a bit of competition. For example, some very good runners are in their 50s and up-and they still compete well against the 20 somethings. This is especially true in endurance events. While youth has speed and energy, old age has endurance and experience and these mean a great deal in endurance events such as biking and marathon running.
One reason why people are staying competitive longer is because of advances in medicine, training techniques, and other factors that have also had the general effect of enabling people to live longer.
One of the most important reasons why older folks are staying competitive longer is probably psychological. Back in the day, people would compete in high school, then college and a rare few would go pro. But even the pros would stop competing after a while. When people grew up, they mostly stopped being active athletes. These days, people are more inclined to stick with sports as they age, thus extending their competitive life span. In short, the older folks are competing well in part because they have stayed in the competition rather than hanging up their shoes.
Although my quadriceps tendon injury has kept me out of the running competition since the end of March, my plan is to get back to racing this Fall or winter. Of course, at this point I am just walking (at about 75% my old speed). But, it is just a matter of time before I’ll be back in the race again-older, but still competing.