Older athletes are not only competing in endurance races — they’re excelling. A study of masters athletes (the name given to older competitors, usually over age 35) at the Hawaii Ironman triathlon — an event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon — revealed that the top male finishers ages 60 through 64 were only a few minutes slower than the top 30- through 34-year-olds. These older triathletes represent "a fascinating model of exceptionally successful aging," the study authors report in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
"There was a time when many people thought you simply couldn’t be a serious athlete after your early 30s," says Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. "That’s obviously not the case."
The six distinguished masters athletes featured in this slideshow offer living proof. To discover more of their stories and find out how you can unlock your inner athlete, read the full article, Super Athletes, in AARP The Magazine's March/April 2011 digital edition.
Ron Lacey, 54
Many masters athletes say their age and experience help them beat out younger competitors. "The young guys, they go all out in the first half hour or so of a long ride, and then they’re toast," says Lacey, a bike-shop owner in San Diego and a fiercely committed cyclist who rides up to 450 miles a week during the racing season. “We older guys know how to settle in, then pick up the pace until the kids’ tongues are hanging out. It is so energizing to be outpacing riders who are 20 years younger than you.”