From the mailbag:
I ran 50+ in College and I just turned 40. I have not let myself go like most 40 year olds, and I’ve stayed fit from a variety of sports throughout the last 2 decades. What can I expect to run at M40 and M45?
This article will discuss the attrition rate of 400 meter sprinters. Refer to Speed and the Masters Sprinter for a preliminary check list and a detailed training plan.
I believe MOST athletes run within 4 seconds from open to M40, then it’s 2 seconds ATTRITION every 5 years.
Yes, we are looking at an absolute loss of 0.35 to 0.40 seconds EVERY YEAR for the 400m. Sad, but true.
So, if a World class runner (i.e. Sunder Nix, Elvis Forde) ran 44 sec @open, then he would run 48 sec @M40, and 52 @M50. (Sunder Nix ran 49.91 in Eugene 2003)
My PB was 48.36 open at age 29, which meant 52 at M40 so now I’m looking at 54 for M45 and 56 for M50 as new goals. I ran 52.5, 52.63, and 52.64 at age 39.9 but my body fell apart at M40.
So to answer the question, a 50 sec open 400 meter runner would run 54 @M40, 56@M45, 58@M50.
There are, however, some exceptions that throw my theory out of the water.
James Chinn, USA, M45 WMA Champion
James ran 50.2 in College, but didn’t start running Masters track until age 42. He kept in shape by running long distance with daily 3-5 miles runs… something that should have destroyed his fast twitch fibres.
His M45 personal best is 51.73 and recently ran 53.54 at M50.
Eric Roeske, Netherlands, former M40 400m WR holder
Eric started competing seriously at age 31 according to his bio, and ran 46.99 at age 36.
His M40 personal best was 47.86 (A WR recently broken by Enrico Saraceni) and ran 50.84 at M45.
I am convinced that if Eric ran track in College, he would have been world class sprinter with a 45 (or 44!) 400 meter open time.