Running on Tilt

Racing against Time

Age-based stats in racing; Frisbee at the track, raccoon in the park

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When I was eighteen I ran the Phelps Sauerkraut 20K in Western New York. Part of the goody bag for the race was a can of sauerkraut juice, which is the nastiest thing I’ve ever tried to drink. I say try to drink because after pouring it into a glass, and bringing the glass up to my mouth, I gagged from the scent of the juice, so I never actually drank it.

I finished that race in about an hour and eighteen minutes, second in the 19-and-under age bracket. It was the first time I became aware of age brackets in racing, and I noticed that the 35-39 year old range had far more runners than any other category. At that point in their lives, I figured, people must be trying to get back into shape.

Now I’m just about 35 myself.

The New York Road Runners website offers age-based statistics for each of its races, so I checked this year’s data to see whether 35-39 is indeed the most common range.

For men, it is. But not for women. In each of the four races I checked—two half marathons, a four miler, and a five miler, the most common age-range for women was 25-29. Runners in that group accounted for more than a quarter of the total female participants.

Across the board in these races, the men on average are older than the women. When it comes to performance, though, it is the older women who do relatively well. Men aged 35 and up accounted for 13% of the top-ten male finishes in these races, while women aged 35 and up accounted for 28% of the top ten female finishes. In other words, even though a smaller proportion of women aged 35 and up are running in these races than men, they are finishing in the top ten more than twice as often.

One more note: women aged 35 and up did particularly well—and were the most under-represented—in the longer races, the half marathons.

After several bouts of subfreezing weather this winter, it didn’t take much to get Brooklynites out of their nests. The McCaren Park track was bustling on Tuesday night in the hardly tropical 45 degrees. Under the lights and among the assorted soccer players, joggers and circuit trainers, I noticed on the infield a small girl riding a red bicycle and a pair of hipsters throwing a Frisbee.

As I rounded the final turn of an 800 in a short interval workout, one of the Frisbee-throwing hipsters overshot the other, and the Frisbee skidded right in front of me. Usually it’s a soccer ball kicked by a Polish guy or a little kid that comes flying onto the track, and I kick it back. This time, without breaking stride, I landed directly atop the Frisbee, stopping it cold. It was satisfying. A more animate distraction appeared in Central Park on Thursday night, when a surprisingly large raccoon scampered across the road toward Tavern on the Green, no doubt looking for something to eat.