Photo taken at the American River 50

Photo taken at the American River 50
Contact me at e.senseman@gmail.com

1/23/2014

By The Numbers: 2013 Edition

A year ago I used the statistics from UltraRunning Magazine to determine the average age of men and women who ran the fastest times in the country, both in overall times and in terms of Age Graded Performances, from the 50k to the 100 mile distance. The results from 2012 can be accessed here.

Once again, in this year's edition, I'll calculate the average ages of the men and women who accounted for the Top 15 times overall, and the Top 15 Age Graded Performances, from the 50k to the 100 mile distance (I was pleased to account for the 41st and 51st fastest 50 mile times and the 10th fastest 50k time in 2013 -- still have yet to nail a 50 mile!). I will then compare the 2013 results with the 2012 results (all results are taken from the March 2013 and the 2014 January/February issues of UltraRunning Magazine). Without further ado, here goes!

Let us start from the top: there were 69,573 ultramarathon finishers in 755 races in 2013 (up 6,043 and 38 from 2012, respectively). The median age was 40.9 years (down 0.4 years from 2012). Among the extant ultra races, 51.5% were the 50k distance (down 2.4% from 2012), 23.1% the 50 mile distance (down 0.3% from 2012), 2.9% the 100k distance (down 0.2% from 2012), 8.6% the 100 mile distance (up 0.2% from 2012), 6.8% were fixed time (down 0.2% from 2012), and 7.1% were other (up 2.9% from 2012). Now onto the interesting data:

Data Set 1: Consider the breakdown in the average ages of runners who were credited with the Top 15 overall finishing times in the respective distances below (M indicates the average Male age; W indicates the average Women's age):


1. 100 mile: M 37.6^, W 38.6*
2. 100 km: M 34.0, W 37.9
3. 50 mile: M 29.7^^, W 35.2**

4. 50 km: M 31.3^^^, W 32.8***

^Mike Morton accounted for two of the top fifteen. 
^^Zach Bitter accounted for two of the top fifteen; Matt Flaherty also accounted for two.
^^^Michael Wardian accounted for two of the top fifteen. 
*Connie Gardner accounted, amazingly, for four of the top fifteen.
**Cassie Scallon accounted for two of the top fifteen; Pam Smith also accounted for two.
***Kaci Lickteig accounted for two of the top fifteen.

Note that, over the four distances for Top 15 overall times, the average male age was 33.2 (-1.4 years from 2012); over the four distances for Top 15 overall times, the average female age was 36.1 (+0.05 years from 2012).

Data Set 2: Consider the breakdown in the average ages of runners who were credited with the Top 15 Graded Performances in the respective distances below (UltraRunning Magazine says that: "These rankings are determined by using the Comparative Difficulty Ratios developed by Gary Wang at RealEndurance.com...using this approach we can make a relative assessment for courses of widely varying difficulty." See UltraRunning Magazine for more information.):


1. 100 mile: M 36.9^, W 36.2*
2. #100 km: M 31.9, W 32.7
3. 50 mile: M 27.4^^, W 33.3**
4. 50 km: M 30.5^^^, W 33.1***

#Only ten Top Graded Performances were provided. 
^Ian Sharman accounted for two of the top fifteen.
^^Rob Krar, Sage Canaday, and Zach Bitter each accounted for two of the top fifteen.
^^^Max King accounted for three of the top fifteen; Chris Vargo accounted for two.
*Nikki Kimball accounted for two of the top fifteen.
**Cassie Scallon accounted, amazingly, for four of the top fifteen; Joelle Vaught accounted for three; Aliza Lapierre and Michele Yates each accounted for two.
***Kaci Lickteig accounted for two of the top fifteen. 

Note that, over the four distances for Top 15 Age Graded Performances, the average male age was 31.7 (-0.15 years from 2012); over the four distances for Top 15 Age Graded Performances, the average female age was 33.8 (-1.5 years from 2012).

At this point it is worth noting two things of interest for anyone seeking to become UltraRunner Of The Year: first, each of the folks who accounted for multiple Top 15 times or performances received at least one vote for UltraRunner of the year (with one surprising exception: Michael Wardian); second, 2013 UltraRunners Of The Year, Rob Krar and Michele Yates, had Age Graded Performances in the Top 4 for the 100 mile, 100k, and 50 mile distances. Interestingly, neither of them had a Top 15 Age Graded Performance for the 50k distance. This suggests, though does not conclusively show, that deference is given to longer distances, at least when it comes to voting for UltraRunner Of The Year. This suggestion is bolstered by the fact that, for example, Mike Morton received 32 UltraRunner Of The Year votes while accounting for two Top 15 Age Graded Performances -- both at the 100 mile distance, while Chris Vargo managed just 2 UltraRunner Of The Year votes while accounting for three Top 15 Age Graded Performances -- one at the 50 mile distance, two at the 50k distance.


How do the Data Sets from 2013 compare to those from 2012? This is how:



Data Set 3: 2013 Top 15 Overall Times as compared to 2012 (difference from 2012 to 2013 in parentheses):


1. 100 mile: M 37.6 (+0.3), W 38.6 (+1.7)
2. 100 km: M 34.0 (-0.5), W 37.9 (+1.2)
3. 50 mile: M 29.7 (-3.0), W 35.2 (-0.5)
4. 50 km: M 31.3 (-2.8), W 32.8 (-2.1)

Data Set 4: 2013 Top 15 Age Graded Performances as compared to 2012 (difference from 2012 to 2013 in parentheses):


1. 100 mile: M 36.9 (+2.4), W 36.2 (-0.4)
2. #100 km: M 31.9 (+0.2), W 32.7 (-5.2)
3. 50 mile: M 27.4 (-3.2), W 33.3 (+0.6)
4. 50 km: M 30.5 (+0.0), W 33.1 (-1.0)

#Only ten Top Graded Performances were provided.

Since the changes are neither uniform nor consistent, it is hard to glean too much from the comparative data; perhaps patterns will develop as I continue to run these numbers over the years. At the very least, this can be said for now:

- As I concluded last year, it seems clear that one's performance in ultramarathons can continue to improve well into one's 30s, if not longer. 
- As was the case in 2012, the average age of women with Top 15 times and performances is almost uniformly and notably older than the average age of the men, suggesting that women's performance in ultramarathons can continue to improve even longer than men's performance. 
- The most significant change in the data sets from 2012 to 2013 occurred at the 50 mile and 50k distances, where the average age of the Top 15 times and performances was down markedly, especially on the men's side at the 50 mile distance, where the average age dropped as much as 3.2 years (a change of more than 10% from 2012). In fact, on the men's side, at the 50 mile distance, the top 7 overall times in the country in 2013 were achieved by gents 28 years or younger. It's not completely clear what to conclude from this: it could be that there are more young runners moving to the ultra distance; it could be that men in their twenties are best suited for top speed at this distance. I am unsure what to conclude, but the data is interesting.

Here's to a fun, and fast, 2014!

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