Aging results in decreasing physical capabilities. Different organ systems with high relevance for endurance capacity underlie changes whereby especially cardiovascular, pulmonary, skeletal muscle and endocrine system can be mentioned. That these biological constraints yield to an optimal age for middle distances in running with around 20 to 30 years is generally known and the fact that longer distances such as marathons or ultraraces have a higher optimal age around 40 is generally accepted. Little evidence exists concerning the interaction between age and topography of a course (flat versus mountainous). When comparing for double starters running times in Napfmarathon (in a mountainous region in the heart of Switzerland) with City marathons of Zürich, Lausanne, Winterthur and Lucerne from 2011-2016 optimal age for runners were in both races around 35 years. Furthermore, the decrease in age-associated performance was smaller in Napfmarathon compared to City Marathons. This is probably due to a total higher work load in Napfmarathon as a result of height difference. This is supported by the fact that optimal age increases with increase of total amount of performance. Furthermore, in mountain courses a higher share of eccentric muscle work is probably necessary especially in downhill running what might explain the smaller association between age and mountain marathons. Further, elasticity of collagen structures such as ligaments or tendons which degenerate during aging may play an important role. In flat courses such as city marathons where proper running movement is possible a higher workload can be performed with these structures. From a performance point of view, it is likely to suppose that with special training such as stretching, Black Roll or Jump Training collagen associated performance can be preserved or even improved while aging.
2. Keywords: Age; Marathon; Mountain marathon; Performance capacity; Topography
Figure 1a: Natural streets, deep ascents and descents as well as challenging forest trails are signs of running in Napf area in the heart of Switzerland.
Figure 1b: View from Napf to the Berner Alpen with Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
Figure 2: Course times for the matched sample left for the city marathons and right for the Napfmarathon. Differences in course times are highly significant (p < 0.01).
Figure 3: Relationship of course times in min. (y-axis) and age in years (x-axis) for Napfmarathon (black) and city marathons (grey), given is an OLS-regression as well as R2 (n = 67).
Figure 4: Relationship of course times in min. (y-axis) and age in years (x-axis) for Napfmarathon (black) and city marathons (grey), given is a Polynomial interpolation 2. degree as well as R2. Course time minimum for Napfmarathon is 34.5 years and city marathons 35.4 Jahre (n = 67).
Figure 5: men 2011-2016 - polynomial interpolation 2. Degree for all runners of Napfmarathon - minimum course time was detected with 34.2 years [23,25] (n = 699).
Figure 6: Frauen 2011-2016 – polynomial interpolation 2. Degree for all female runners in Napfmarathon – minimum results with 28.7 years [23,25] (n = 205).
Figure 6: Relationship of average km conventional and with the concept of performance km for the Napf marathon (y-axis) and the age (x-axis) for Napfmarathon (black) and city marathons (grey)(n = 67).
- Leyk D, Rüther T, Wunderlich M, Sievert A, Essfeld D, et al. (2010) Physical performance in middle age and old age: good news for our sedentary and aging society. Dtsch Arztebl Int 107: 809-16.
- Ferrari AU, Radaelli A, Centola M (2003) Invited review: aging and the cardiovascular system. J Appl Physiol 95: 2591-2597.
- Zintl F, Eisenhut A (2009) Ausdauertraining: Grundlagen, Methoden, Trainingssteuerung. München: BLV Buchverlag.
- Jackson AS, Beard EF, Wier LT, Ross RM, Stuteville JE, et al. (1995) Changes in aerobic power of men, ages 25-70 yr. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27: 1131-20.
- Stathokostas L, Jacob-Johnson S, Petrella RJ, Paterson DH (2004) Longitudinal changes in aerobic power in older men and women. J Appl Physiol 97: 781-9.
- Hollenberg M, Yang J, Haight TJ, Tager IB (2006) Longitudinal changes in aerobic capacity: implications for concepts of aging. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 61: 851-858.
- Romer T, Rüst CA, Zingg MA, Rosemann T, Knechtle B (2014) Age and ultra-marathon performance - 50 to 1,000 km distances from 1969-2012. SpringerPlus 3: 693.
- Steffny H. Optimales Lauftraining. Südwestverlag: München; 2010.
- Knechtle B, Nikolaidis PT (2017) The age of the best ultramarathon performance - the case of the "Comrades Marathon". Res Sports Med 25: 132-143.
- Knechtle B, Assadi H, Lepers H, Rosenmann T, Rüst CA (2014) Relationship between age and elite marathon race time in world single age records from 5 to 93 years. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 6: 31.
- Romer T, Rüst CA, Zingg MA, Rosemann T, Knechtle B (2014) Age and ultra-marathon performance - 50 to 1,000 km distances from 1969-2012. Springer Plus 3: 693.
- Borghini A, Giardini G, Tonacci A, Mastorci F, Mercuri A, et al. (2015) Mrakic-Sposta S, Moretti S, Andreassi MG, Pratali L. Chronic and acute effects of endurance training on telomere length. Mutagenesis 30: 711-716.
- Lieberman D (2015) Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective. Current Sports Medicine Reports 14: 313-319.
- Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D'Andrea S, et al. (2010) Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463: 531-535.
- Heglund NC, Taylor CR (1988) Speed, stride frequency and energy cost per stride. How do they change with body size and gait? J Exp. Biol 138: 301-318.
- Bramble DM, Lieberman DE (2004) Endurance running and the evolution of Homo. Nature 432: 345-352.
- Marlowe FW (2010) The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, p. 325.
- Blurton Jones NG, Smith LC, O’Connell JF, Hawkes K, Kamuzora CL (1992) Demography of the Hadza, an increasing and high density population of Savanna foragers. Am J Phys Anthropol 89: 159-581.
- Giovanelli N, Taboga P, Rejc E, Simunic B, Antonutto G, et al. (2016) Effects of an Uphill Marathon on Running Mechanics and Lower-Limb Muscle Fatigue. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 11: 522-529.
- Burtscher M, Förster H, Burtscher J (2008) Superior endurance performance in aging mountain runners. J. Gerontol 54: 268-271.
- Popper KR (1969) Logik der Forschung. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
- Knechtle B, Valeri F, Zingg MA, Rosemann T, Rüst CA (2014) What is the age for the fastest ultra-marathon performance in time-limited races from 6 h to 10 days? Age (Dordr) 36: 9715.
- Reinboud W (2004) Linear models can’t keep up with sport gender gap. Nature 432: 147.
- Lara B, Juan José Salinero JJ, Del Coso J (2014) The relationship between age and running time in elite marathoners is U-shaped. Age (Dordr) 36: 1003-1008.
- Knechtle B, Rosemann T, Zingg MA, Rüst CA (2015) Increase in participation but decrease in performance in age group mountain marathoners in the 'Jungfrau Marathon': a Swiss phenomenon? Springer plus 18: 523.
- Lehto N (2016) Effects of age on marathon finishing time among male amateur runners in Stockholm Marathon 1979-2014. J Sport Health Sci 5: 349-354.
- Barandun U, Knechtle B, Knechtle P, Klipstein A, Rüst CA, et al. (2012) Running speed during training and percent body fat predict race time in recreational male marathoners. Open Access J. Sports Med 3: 51-58.
- Winkler K, Brehm HP, Haltmeier J (2008) Bergsport Sommer. Bern, SAC-Verlag, 2. Aufl.
- Bailey DM, Davies B, Romer L, Castell L, Newsholme E, et al. (1998) Gandy G. Implications of moderate altitude training for sea-level endurance in elite distance runners. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 78: 360-368.
- Scarf P (2007) Route choice in mountain navigation, Naismith’s rule, and the equivalence of distance and climb. J Sports Sci 25: 719-726.
- Langmuir E (1984) Mountaincraft and Leadership. Official Handbook of the Mountain Leader Training Boards of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Britain & Scottish Sports Council.Edinburgh Scotland.
- Trappe S (2007) Marathon runners: how do they age? Sports Med 37: 302-305.
- Eichenberger E, Knechtle B, Rüst CA, Rosemann T, Lepers R (2012) Age and gender interactions in mountain ultra-marathon running - the ‘Swiss Alpine Marathon’. Open Access J. Sports Med 3: 73-80.
- Svensson RB, Heinemeier KM, Couppe C, Kjaer M, Magnusson SP (2016) The effect of aging and exercise on the tendon. J Appl Physiol (1985). 121: 1237-1246.
- Fukashiro S, Hay DC, Nagano A (2006) Biomechanical behavior of muscle-tendon complex during dynamic human movements. J Appl Biomech 22: 131-147.
- Hughes SM, Schiffiano S (1999). Control of muscle fibre size: a crucial factor in ageing, Acta Physilogica Scandinavica, 167: 307-312.
- Vogt M, Hoppeler HH (2014) Eccentric exercise: mechanisms and effects when used as training regime or training adjunct. J Appl Physiol 116: 1446-1454.
- Vogt M, Däpp C, Blatter J, Weisskopf R, Suter G, et al. (2003) Training zur Optimierung der Dosierung exzentrischer Muskelaktivität. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für «Sportmedizin und Sporttraumatologie 51:188-191.
- Vogt M(2007) Exzentrisches Training -NZZ 16.3.
- Alberto F, Vallejo, Edward T Schroeder, Ling Zheng, Nicole E, (2006) Cardiopulmonary responses to eccentric and concentric resistance exercise in older adults. Age Ageing 35: 291-297.
- Alexander RMcN, Bennet-Clark HC (1977) Storage of elastic strain energy in muscle and other tissues. Nature 265: 114-117.
- Kim JS, Lee YH, Yi HK (2016) Gradual downhill running improves age-related skeletal muscle and bone weakness: implication of autophagy and bone morphogenetic proteins. Exp Physiol 101: 1528-1540.
- Brüggemann GP (2000) Speicherung und Nutzung elastischer Energie in Sehnen und Bändern der unteren Extremität bei hochdynamischen Absprüngen im Sport. BISp-Jahrbuch. Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln Institut für Biomechanik.
- Gluchowski A, Harris N, Dulson D, Cronin J (2015) Chronic Eccentric Exercise and the Older Adult. Sports Med 45: 1413-1430.