Is age just a number?

Her eyes twinkle with a zest for life. And when she runs, her legs twinkle so fast that she sets world age group records.

Octogenarian Deirdre Larkin from Randburg is a sprightly 87-year-old who is rewriting world age group records. After breaking the 21km world record for over 85-year-olds at the McCarthy race last year, the Carte Blanche TV team sponsored her for a trip to Geneva where they accompanied her to document her attempt to lower her own world record. And she rose to the occasion, lowering the record by a further seven minutes to 2:05:13.

Her record-breaking spree brings hope to older runners and raises the question: Is age just a number?

Short answer: no.

Sadly age isn’t just a number and there are biological reasons for slowing down as we age. However much depends on what age we started, how many years we have run, and how hard we trained and raced.

There are elite runners who excelled at a young age and who were unable to race at the same level in later years.

An example is the great Bruce Fordyce, who won nine Comrades in his twenties and early thirties. He ran his first Comrades in 1977 when he was 22-years-old, was third in 1979, second in 1980 and started winning in 1981. The 80s belonged to Fordyce with his last win being in 1990, after which he suddenly discovered in the 1991 Comrades that he no longer could win. However, the signs had been there for a few years that he was slowing down despite his

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