Today I turn 45 years old. As runners like to note, this is a big one: I'm now in a new age group for most races. Instead of the 40-44 age group, I'm in the 45-49 group. In theory, that should make it easier for me to get age group awards at races. But I've found that advancing to a new age group doesn't necessarily help. Let's take a look at my last few races to see what a different age grouping would have done for me.
Mississippi Blues: I finished first in the 40-44 group; my time was good for second in 45-49
Elf Run: First in 40-44, 5th in 45-49
Mount Pisgah Frozen Trail Run: Third in 40-44, second in 45-49
Richmond Marathon: 44th in 40-44, 22nd in 45-49
Mooresville Pumpkin Run: 3rd overall -- out of age groups
Bridges Half Marathon: First in 40-44, First in 45-49
Run For Green Half Marathon: First in 40-44, First in 45-49
So, in two of the seven races, I would have improved my standing, and in two I would have fared worse. In three I would have stayed the same -- overall it looks like there's not much benefit.
But where you can really see the difference is in the result at Richmond. Richmond had by far the largest field of any race I ran last year, and jumping up to the 45-49 group would have improved my ranking from 44th to 22nd.
You might think that was only due to the fact that fields tend to be smaller in the older age groups, but actually there wasn't much difference. There were 328 finishers in the male 40-44 group, and that number only decreased to 305 in the 45-49 group.
In smaller races there have been as few as 6 or 7 people in my age group, so genuine age group differences can be difficult to suss out; it's really more of a question of who happened to show up that day. But when you have a large field of runners to compare, it's clear that there is a real drop in the level of competition at the 45-49 age grouping. That means that if I am able to maintain my current level of fitness, I should do better relative to my age group.
Of course, maintaining fitness gets harder as one gets older -- which is why we have age groupings in the first place.
Details of yesterday's run are below.
Yesterday I did my longest run since the Mississippi Blues Half and the resurgence of IT band issues. While there were a few twinges, I felt pretty good for the whole run, and was able to keep up a relatively decent pace, averaging 8:06 per mile. I think the key is going to be sticking to my exercise and stretching program for the IT band. If I do that, I should be back in shape in no time.