Adventures: > Amazing Master's Performances Part 1: Men

Incredible Age-Group Records

by Peter Holleran


   "I'm living my youth."    81 year-old runner in the New York Marathon.


   The following information will probably strike you as either depressing (if you are feeling ancient or having a bad day/week/year) or inspiring (if you are having an up day/week/year and dream of doing better). After reading about the 1998 Dipsea I started running at age fifty after a thirty-five year hiatus and simultaneously started what I refer to as an "old guys running scrapbook" that has become quite large and has, alternatively, inspired and depressed ME. A few weeks ago I was in the groove training-wise and began to think "wow, I'll bet that in ten or twenty or thirty years I'll be as good as some of those guys". Right now, hobbled by sinus infection and strained calves, even the M80 mile record seems pretty formidable (you'll be amazed how fast that is). Nevertheless we do enjoy goals and might as well know both where we stand as well as what is humanly possible: it is nothing short of astonishing. Keep in mind that research shows only an approximate 1% per year or 10% per decade decrease in VO2 max and relative performance after about age 30 (with twice as fast a decline in those who don't exercise). That still leaves room for some mighty swift times. The following records/performances are restricted mostly to those for runners over 40 years of age (masters and above); for those younger, we already know how fast you are!

   Let's begin by giving those brave souls, the ultra-runners, their just recognition. The ultimate achievement endurance-wise has to be the cross-country, or more properly, CROSS-CONTINENTAL run. Mostly vegetarian Scotsman Al Howie (age about 40) in 1991 made it from St. John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, a mere 4533 MILES, in 72 days, 10 hours, and 23 minutes, for a remarkable 63 miles per day (note: this was an extensively documented run). Max Telford of New Zealand in 1977 ran from Anchorage, Alaska to Halifax, Nova Scotia, 5110 miles, in 107 days. The fastest USA crossing (doubted by many) is attributed to Frank Giannino, who reportedly made it from San Francisco to New York in 1980 (3100 miles) in 46 days, 8 hours, or 66 miles a day. Tom McGrath also is reported to have gone from San Francisco to New York (1977), in 53 days, 1 hour. Bruce Tulloh, 33, went from Los Angeles to New York (2876 miles) in 1969 in 64 days, 21 hours (see Ultramarathon, by James E. Shapiro, for a progressive list of records). The pioneering black ultra-runner, Ted Corbitt, after hearing of Tulloh's run, planned, with accustomed bravado, his own cross-USA run to be accomplished in only 42 days at the age of 54. He wrote that he was already physically fit after twenty-three years as an ultramarathoner, to the extent that his feet were so hardened that it was impossible to penetrate the skin with a needle to drain a blister! He figured that he was capable of a fast time since he had just run 2000 miles in training during the same time it took Tulloh to make his journey (In this period Corbitt ran 250 miles per week while holding down a full-time physical therapy job and caring for his family!) but eventually had to pass when he developed bronchial asthma. Most incredible was Don Shepherd's 1964 Los Angeles to New York run (3200 miles) in 73 days, 8 hours, at the age of 48. While not the fastest, what made his ultra-ultra so unreal was that he did it solo, with no support crew, carrying a small canvas sack, on a self-imposed $10 a day budget (no wife, no van, no Winnebago: he had to look for a place to eat and sleep every night, and at one point even had to negotiate flood waters)! On the way he lost 38 pounds. Way back in 1910 the legendary pedestrian Edward Payton Weston at SEVENTY-TWO YEARS OF AGE walked from Los Angeles to New York (3611 miles) in 77 days, or 47 miles a day. The open walking record is 53.5 days, set by John Lees in 1972.

   In such an event one faces a choice: run/walk faster and sleep more, or run/walk slower and sleep less, whichever allows for better "recovery" (which is a feat in itself; it seems impossible, but then Russ Kiernan in his training video remarked that when he first heard of the Dipsea his comments regarding anyone running that race were "that's impossible!" ). The 1992 Transamerica Footrace, a Tour de France-style race (2936 miles) in 64 daily stages found the leaders averaging 10:36 per mile, for about 8 hours daily, allowing for plenty of sleep, with a winning time, in hours, of 521:35:57. Some stages by the leaders were run at 8-9 minute, and occasionally insane 7-minute, pace! Pretty conceivable for one day, but hard to imagine doing two months straight, day in and day out. The last Transamerica, held in 1995, was much faster, even accounting for a shorter course (2906 miles), with 42 year-old Dusan Mravlje of Slovenia winning in 427:59:25, or an average of 8:45 per mile! By doing so he broke the previous record by 59 hours, almost one hour a day. Second place went to Ray Bell, 48, 1993 TransAm winner, in 441:49:49. "This was a real race the whole way across the country. In fact, the field was so good this year that every day they went for broke." In the light of such achievements, Paul Reese, who authored the book Ten Million Steps recounting his run across the USA in 1990 at age 73 (averaging a marathon a day for 124 days), referred to his own effort as "pantywaist"! For anyone contemplating such an undertaking, Corbitt offers these cautionary words: "Those who strive to run across the country in a fast time need a great deal of luck and some special preparations to toughen the body. They must be prepared to deal with a lot of intermittent pain and to survive deep fatigue symptoms [no kidding] that affect everyone differently and await all who run for very long periods of time. There is no way to know about the demoralizing physical and and emotionally destabilizing feelings until a sustained effort produces them. The runner finds out then if he or she has the will to endure a lot of suffering and the stomach to get the job done.....Prior extensive training and racing experience at long distances does not guarantee success." He adds, however, "..there are personal rewards--mainly the kingly, uplifting sense of conquering and savoring the achievement of the quest. The finishers bank physical and emotional booty." (Running the TransAmerica Footrace, by Barry Lewis, 1994)

   Since first writing this piece I have been made aware by Runner's World of the phenomenal feat of Istvan Sipos (age unknown) who ran 12,554 miles in his native Hungary between February 14 and November 3, 2000, an average of 47.5 miles per day for 264 days. He passed through 3121 towns on route to completing the world's longest run. (Yet even this achievement pales in difficulty compared with the inspiring WWII odysey detailed in The Long Walk in which author and companions escaped from a Siberian prison camp in the middle of winter and went on foot six thousand miles through the Gobi Desert all the way to British India).

   "Standard" races for more ordinary mortals are as follows. Distances for 24 and 48 hour runs are converted from kilometers and rounded to the nearest mile. Ages given are actual ages of runners, not age-group. When age is unknown, age-group record is listed.

48 Hour Run

29 - Yiannis Kouros (GR) (1985) 280
40 - Yiannis Kouros (GR) (1996) 294 (improved with age)
46 - Tomas Rusek (CZ) ( ) 269
48 - Ray Pirrung (USA) ( ) 243
57 - Gilbert Mainix (FR) ( ) 264
59 - Don Winkey (USA) (1997) 201
70 + Manfred Hausen (GER) ( ) 156 (70-74 age-group record)
80 + Robert Lardinois (BEL) ( ) 125 (80-84 age-group record)

24 Hour Run

41 - Yiannis Kourous (GR) (1997) 189 (world record) (7:34/mile!)
(At age 29 Yiannis did an indoor 156 miles in 24 hours on an 11
lap per mile track for a mind-numbing 1712 laps. In 1987 at age
31 he ran Melbourne to Sydney, 700 miles, in 6 days. He also
holds the world 1000-mile record of 10 + 10:30:35 (an average
of 95 miles per day). Yiannis' style on multi-day races is to
sleep only a few hours per night. A relatively swift
ultra-runner, his best marathon time is 2:24.
47 - Don Ritchie (GBR) ( ) 166 (Ritchie held the world record
for 100 miles - 11:30:51 - the equivalent of four 3-hour
marathons back-to-back) (**new record 2002 - Oleg Kharitonov,
34, 11:28:03)
50 - Tomas Rusek (CZ) ( ) 163
62 - Max Courtillon (FR) ( ) 149
67 - Ray Piva (USA) (1993) 120 (Piva also remains the oldest man
to run the Western States 100 in under 24 hours, and holds
records for M60-64 (100 k), M65-69 (100 k, 12 Hours), and
M70-74 (50 miles)
70 - Howard Henry (USA) (1994) 94
76 - Howard Henry (USA) (1997) 83

Marathon
- Paul Tergat (KEN) (2003) 2:04:55 WR (Berlin)
- Sammy Korir (KEN) (2003) 2:04:56

40 - Andres Espinosa (MEX) 2003 2:08:46
40 - Mohammed Ezzher (MOR) (2001) 2:10:32
(Paris Marathon, run in rainy conditions; he says:
"I do not think of myself as a master yet; I am still
a senior open runner in my mind.")
- John Campbell (NZL)(1990) 2:11:04
41 - Jack Foster (NZL) (1974) 2:11:19
50 - Jack Foster (NZL) (1983) 2:20:28
51 - Titus Mambola ( ) (1991) 2:19:29
53 - Bud Coates (USA) (2000) 2:25:10
56 - Eric Ostbye ( )(19 ) 2:27:05
65 + Derek Turnbull (NZL) ( ) 2:41.57
66 - Clive Davies (USA) (1981) 2:42:49
69 - Ed Whitlock (CAN) (2000) 2:52:50
Whitlock has also run a 1:20 half-marathon; like many
seniors, he gets his speed-work from racing, training
with two-hour runs at a leisurely 8-9 minute pace.
71 - John Keston (USA) (1996) 3:00:58 (this remarkable man only
began running at age 55 after being diagnosed with high
blood pressure; within a year he ran a 2:58 marathon,
and fourteen years later at age 69 was still clocking
the same time!)
73 - Ed Whitlock (CAN) (2004) 2:54:49
75 - Warren Utes (USA) (1995) 3:18:10
77 - John Keston (USA) (2002) 3:19.01
80 - Ed Benham (USA (1987) 3:43:27
84 - Ed Benham (USA) (1991) 4:17:51
91 - Fauja Singh (India) (2002) 6:45:31
92 - Fauja Singh (India) (2003) 5:40:04 !!

Some of the best age-specific times for the Dipsea race, on the modern
course, include:

38 - Homer Latimer(1977) 47:56; 44 - Sal Vasquez (1984) 49:18
(arguably the best run ever by age). Vasquez only started
running at age 40 and after less than seven months ran
his first Dipsea in 54:08!
46 - Sal Vasquez (1986) 50:19; 50 - Sal Vasquez (1990) 52:05
54 - Sal Vasquez (1994) 53:06 (with this run Vasquez was the
youngest ever to run faster-than-his-age)
57- Sal Vasquez (1997) 54:27 (maybe the next-best run ever by
age)
61 - Russ Kiernan (1999) 60:33; 62 - Russ Kiernan (2000) 61:28;
63 - Russ Kiernan (2001) 61:53; 64 - Link Lindquist (1992) 64:27;
67 - Bob Malain (1994) 67:09; 68 - Joe King (1994) 67:41;
69 - Joe King (1995) 66:03 (a great run, three minutes below
his age);
71 - Joe King (1997) 69:28

All the following are track records, unless otherwise specified as road (R), and are from the 1999 Masters Age Records, supplemented with times from various other recent sources including the latest WAVA results. Please forgive any omissions or errors.

10 k

40 - Martti Vainso (FIN) (1991) 28:31
42 - Andrei Kuznetsov (RUS) (1999) 29:22
45 - Antonio Villanueva (MEX)(1987) 30:02.56
50 - Ron Robertson (NZL) (1991) 31:02
- John Campbell (NZL)(1999) (R) 31:02
55 - Ron Robertson (NZL) (1997) 32:46.5
60 - Luciano Acquarmi (ITA)(1991) 34:15
- Jim O'Neill (USA) (2000) 34:27 (R)
- Jack Nelson (USA) (1999) 35:14 (R) (returned to
racing at age 51; ran 4:12 mile in college)
- John Hosner (USA) (1985) 35:09 (returned to running
at age 50; ran 4:51 mile in high school)
61 - John Gilmour (AUS) (1980) 34:23
65 - Derek Turnbull (NZL) (1992) 34:42.2
69 - Ed Whitlock (CAN) (2000) 36:11
73 - Ed Whitlock (CAN) (2004) 37:33
75 - Warren Utes (USA) (1995)(R)40:12
- David Mornan (GBR) (1989) 42:03.4
-Steve Charlton (GBR) (2002)(R) ?
76 - John Keston (USA ) (2001) 41:30.52
81 - Edward Benham (USA) (1988) 44:29
86 - Alfred Funk (USA) (2000) 54:19.28
87 - Josef Galia (GFR) (1985) 54:23
90 - Gordon Porteous (USA) (2004) 69:26

5k

40 - Lucien Renault (FRA) (1976) 13:45.6
- John Campbell (NZL) (1991) (R) 13:55
42 - Andrey Kusnetzov (RUS) (1999) (R) 14:17
50 - Nolan Shaheed (USA) (2001) 15:36
- Sal Vasquez (USA) (1991) (R)15:38 (He also holds road
records for M45-49 (15 k, 10 miles), and M50-54 (8 k, 12 k)
51 - Antonio Villanueva (MEX) (1991) 14:55.6
- Dick Buerkle (USA) (1999) (R) 15:38
- Nolan Shaheed (USA) (2001) (R) 15:36
55 - Ron Robertson (NZL) (1999) 15:41.72
59 - Jack Nelson (USA) (1999) (R) 16:21
60 - Ron Robertson (NZL) (2001) 16:16.51
65 - Derek Turnbull (NZL) (1992) 16:38.8 (!)
68 - Ed Whitlock (CAN) (1999) 17:39
70 - Warren Utes (USA) (1990) (R) 18:01
73 - Ed Whitlock (CAN) (2004) 18:22
75 - Warren Utes (USA) (1995) (R) 19:24
- Steve Charlton (GBR) (2002) 19:45.05
76 - John Keston (CAN) (2001) 20:38
80 - Ed Benham (USA) (1988) 21:58
- Warren Utes (USA) (2000) 22:14
86 - Alfred Funk (USA) (2000) 25:46.54

2 mile

40 - John Van Der Wansem (HOL) (1990) 8:55.4
50 - Larry Olsen (USA) (1997) 9:56.9
56 - John Gilmour (AUS) (1976) 10:06 (!)
60 - Jim Sutton (USA) (1992) 11:04.8
65 - Norman Bright (USA) (1975) 11:35.6
67 - John Gilmour (AUS) (1987) 10:58.2 (!!)
(that's 10:58, not 11:58!)
70 - Stan Nicholis (AUS) (1981) 12:23
73 - Harold Chapson (USA) (1976) 12:41

Mile

41 - Eamon Coughlin (IRL) (1994) 3:58 (indoors!)
43 - Larry Almberg (USA) (1990) 4:06.7
44 - Larry Almberg (USA) (1992) 4:12
45 - David Siri (NZL) (1987) 4:16.75
51 - Nolan Shaheed (USA) (2001) 4:25.04 (4:27.14 (i)
(one of his "secrets": he eats once every other day when
not in training, just once a day when training (six days a
week,and only after his workout), and fasts for 23 hours
before races).
52 - Nolan Shaheed (USA) (2002) 4:26.75 (i)
53 - Tom Roberts (AUS) (1987) 4:30.6
55 - Jack Ryan (AUS) (1977) 4:40
56 - Ray Hatton (USA) (1988) 4:47
60 - Joop Ruter (HOL) (1983) 4:54
(The Tamalpa super senior (60+) 4-mile relay world
record holders set the record in 1998 with an average of
about 5:39 per mile)
- Steve Lyons (USA) (2000) 5:00.95 (Steve ran a great 4:52
relay leg at age 56)
64 - Siem Herlaar (HOL) (1985) 4:55.10
65 - Derek Turnbull (NZL) (1992) 4:56.4 (Turnbull is awesome -
see 5k and 10k) (Tamalpan Don Porteous (54) recently ran
an outstanding 4:56 on both the track and the road; now, if
he can only hold out for ten more years...)
67 - Earl Fee (CAN) (1996)5:13
70+ Joop Ruter (NED) (2003) 5:19.75
(The Tamalpan veterans (70+) 4-mile relay world record
holders set the record in 1998 with an average of about 7:13
per mile.(Conclusion: with a bit more speed work they could
smoked the record, not just beat it; the same goes for the
super seniors) (Conclusion: 4:54 60 year-old milers and 5:24
70 year-old milers are rare and it's hard to field an entire
team with them)
- Earl Fee (CAN) (2000) 5:39.5 (i)
75 - Scotty Carter (USA) (1992) 5:57.2
- John Hosner (USA) (2000) 6:26.16 (new world indoor
record)
78 - Harold Chapson (USA) (1981) 6:15.1
80 - Harold Chapson (USA) (1983) 6:43 (I told you it was pretty
fast)

800 meters

40 - Johnny Gray (USA) (2001) 1:48.23 (i)
41 - Peter Brown (GBR) (1990) 1:51.25
45 - Renaldo Mercelina (HOL) (1991) 1:56.16
50 - Nolan Shaheed (USA) (2000) 1:58.65; 2:02.88 (i)
(world records)
- Renaldo Mercelina (HOL) (1996) 1:59.45
55 - Tom Roberts (AUS) (1989) 2:05.07
55+ James O'Neill (IRE) (2000) 2:06.33
62 - Alan Bradford (AUS) (1999) 2:10.42
66 - Earl Fee (CAN) (1995) 2:14.3
70 - Earl Fee (CAN) (1999) 2:20.45
72 - Earl Fee (CAN) (2001) 2:26.28
75 - Harold Chapson (USA) (1978) 2:40
81 - Harold Chapson (USA) (1983) 2:49.4
84 - Harold Chapson (USA) (1986) 3:13
86 - Alfred Funk (USA) (2000) 3:28.15

400 meters

40 - Eric Roeske (USA) (2002) 47.86
42 - Lee Evans (USA) (1989) 47.5 ?
48 - Stan Whitley (USA) (1994) 50.2
50 - Fred Sowerby (USA) (1999) 51.39
52 - Stephen Robbins (USA) (1995) 51.63
58 - Ralph Romain (TRI) (1990) 52.52 (!)
(After the Dipsea, running the 400m faster than your age is
another challenge for the masters athlete; the great
Romain ran 52.8 at age 54 and, amazingly, 53.88 at age 63,
slowing only 1 second in 9 years!)
63 - Ralph Romain (TRI) (1996) 53.88
67 - Earl Fee (CAN) (1993) 57.97
69 - Ralph Romain (TRI) (2001) 58.69
70 - Earl Fee (CAN) (1997) 61.33
76 - Lucas Nel (RSA) (1999) 66.88
80 - Harold Chapman (USA)(1983) 75.4
85 - Herbert Lepke (SWE) (2001) 1:30.99

200 meters

41 - Bill Collins (USA) (1992) 21.86
50 - Kenneth Dennis (USA) (1987) 22.9
56 - Ron Taylor (GBR) (1990) 23.37
64 - Larry Colbert (USA) (2001) 23.47 (!)
67 - James Law (USA) (1993) 25.2
70 - Payton Jordan (USA) (1987) 26.8
- Alan Meddings (GBR) (2000) 27.23
75 - Payton Jordan (USA) (1992) 28.14
80 - Payton Jordan (USA) (1997) 30.89 (elected to Masters
Hall of Fame in 1997)
81 - Jim Manno (USA) (2002) 32.85 (AR)
85 - Kizo Kimura (JPN) (1996) 35.82
87 - Loy Murrell (USA) (1997) 35.10 (pending)
90 - Anthony Carter (USA) (1999) 42.78

100 meters
24 - Amputee record
Marlon Shirley (USA) (2002) 11.08 (!)

40 - Eddie Hart (USA) (1989) 10.6
50 - Bill Collins (USA) (2002) 10.95
61 - Ron Taylor (GBR) (1995) 11.70
66 - Kenneth Dennis (USA) (2003) 12.4
74 - Payton Jordan (USA) (1991) 12.91
80 - Payton Jordan (USA) (1997 14.35
Imagine running at 0:57 400m pace or 3:48 mile
pace - even for 100m - at the age of 80
81 - Jim Manno (USA) (2002) 15.32
89 - Duncan McClean (GBR) (1974) 16.5
90 - Duncan McClean (GBR) (1975) 19.9 (he sure was fast at 89)
- Anthony Carter (USA) (2000) 19.62 (new world record)
96 - Erwin Jaskulski (AUT) (1999) 24.01 Sound slow? well,
it's still 6:24 mile pace. See how that feels when you're
a bit tired; now, imagine you're 96. Can you see the
Dipsea Demon, Jack Kirk,
(God bless him) running at 6:24 mile pace?
I know what you may be saying, "but Jack trained for
endurance, not speed". Maybe if that lightning bolt struck
in just the right place, though*, he could fly down the
track......hhhmmmm..........Now, to be fair, a real life
comparison would probably find
the average man running 100 meters at age 96 in about
four to five minutes. But we know that's only for those
who don't keep in training, eh?!

* Jack claimed he was struck by lightning before the 1999
Dipsea which was the reason for his bent posture during
the race.

101 - Leslie Amey (AUS) (2001) 71.05 (I guess we do slow
down)