Preprint / Version 1

Running the Numbers

The Effect of Age on Performance in Elite Distance Runners


  • Ben Curtis Drake University



track and field, distance running, optimal performance age, World Athletics, age-performance relationship


Professional athletics is often a short career with small purses. Athletes, particularly internationally, start competing at young ages and compete in several events so as to maximize potential career earnings and accolades. Using data from World Athletics ‘all-time’ rankings, we employed regression analysis to evaluate the relationship between age and performance outcomes in distance runners. We found the optimal performance ages for men and women to be significant, being 24.76 ± 2.33 and 30.85 ± 1.31, respectively. Further, we observed no relationship between event duration and optimal performance age in men and women. This research provides valuable insights into the dynamics shaping athletic achievement in elite distance running, emphasizing the importance of age-specific considerations in talent development and career management.


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