Effects of increased participation on veteran running performance

Bernard Cerutti, Bengt Kayser
  • Journal of Sports Sciences, June 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2017.1340661

Are master runners running faster?

What is it about?

Recent research on master (veteran) sports performance suggested that in the older age categories runners are running faster as compared to 10 or 20 years ago. We have now analyzed the performance changes over the years in a popular Swiss road race and found that this effect disappears with adjusting for the changes in participation rates. What has been reported elsewhere is probably an artifact stemming from the use of fixed numbers of best performances, for example the best 10 or 20.

Why is it important?

Human performance is driven by genetics and environment and by definition limited by physics and biology. The improvement of performance over time is the result of genetic (talent) selection and optimization of the environment (training, nutrition, technology). Aging comes inevitably (for now) with loss of performance. Increasing numbers of people continue to be physically active during their later years, for leisure and for health reasons. This leads to apparently improved performance in some sports, but this is only an effect of increased participation rates.


Professor Bengt Kayser
Universite de Lausanne

It remains to be seen if the ongoing biomedical paradigm shift may ultimately lead to changes in physiology of older athletes allowing to improve performance.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Bengt Kayser