Masters Age-Related Differences in 100m Sprint Performance

What are the limits to Masters track?

We know about attrition and the effects of aging on fast twitch fibers.  For more insight, see my earlier posts on Speed and the Masters Sprinter and The Attrition Rate of a 400 meter Sprinter.

Why is there a jump in performance in the “older” age groups?   A smaller sample pool?  It’s not uncommon to have 4 rounds in the M45-55 age groups.  Over 81 athletes requires 4 rounds at International meets.  Good luck getting 8 guys to show up for the M95 100 meter dash.

Let’s dissect the 100 meters.  (Save the 400m for a later date)





First, notice how the World Records are set at the beginning of the respective age groups?  That’s why you’ll see athletes “ducking” in the tail end of their age groups.  The most common excuse is financial hardship for long travel.

Why the sharp decline in performance at the older groups?

In this study, Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Aug;35(8):1419-28, they measured the following factors at 10 meter intervals of the 100 meter race:

  1. velocity
  2. stride length
  3. stride rate
  4. ground contact time
  5. flight time during the acceleration
  6. peak velocity
  7. deceleration phase

From the study, the general decline in sprint performances with age were evident around the 65-70 year old age groups and they concluded it was primarily related to reduction in stride length and increase in ground contact time.

Gee, thanks guys, we know it’s related, but what is the true cause?

Do you really believe it’s your neurons slowing down?

Lack of strength in your infrastructure (bones and muscles)?  If so, perhaps it’s the loss of muscle mass in men and osteoporosis in women?

If that’s the case, then there’s a lot to be said about the long term effects of an acidic diet, and why you should strive for a more alkaline diet.  That’s theory #1.  More on that later.

Below is the original summary of the research paper:

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Aug;35(8):1419-28.

Age-related differences in 100-m sprint performance in male and female master runners. Korhonen MT, Mero A, Suominen H.

Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland.

PURPOSE:  This study was undertaken to investigate age-related differences in the velocity and selected stride parameters in male and female master sprinters and to determine which stride characteristics were related to the overall decline in the performance of the 100 m with age.

METHODS: The performances of 70 finalists (males 40-88 yr, females 35-87 yr) at the European Veterans Athletics Championships were recorded using two high-speed cameras (200 Hz) with a panning video technique and distance markers at 10-m intervals. Velocity, stride length (SL), stride rate (SR), ground contact time (CT), and flight time (FT) during the acceleration, peak velocity, and deceleration phases of the 100-m race were determined from the video records with the aid of the Peak Performance analysis system.

RESULTS: There was a general decline in sprint performances with age, the decrease becoming more evident around 65-70 yr of age. The velocity during the different phases of the run declined on average from 5 to 6% per decade in males and from 5 to 7% per decade in females. Similarly, SL showed clear reductions with increasing age, whereas SR remained unchanged until the oldest age groups in both genders. Furthermore, the CT, which correlated with velocity, was significantly longer, and FT, which correlated with both velocity and SL, was shorter in older age groups.

CONCLUSION: Our findings indicated that age-associated differences in velocity in elite master sprinters were similar in each phase of the 100-m run. The deterioration of the overall performance with age was primarily related to reduction in SL and increase in CT.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • There have been, not only this competition performance study in year 2003, but also series of other studies at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) that have examined the specific biomechanical and neuromuscular (and training) mechanisms responsible for the decline in sprint performance with age. For those of you interested, some results of works have been summarized in Marko Korhonen’s PhD dissertation that is available (for free, pdf) at digital archive under:


  • It is always fun to read something that says the why but not the how part.
    He ran faster because he put out a greater force, okay but how did he do it?
    He jump farther because of a great take off, but how did he perform a great take off?