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Marathons – They're Not Just for Younger Legs

A record number of 75+ runners took part in this year's NYC race

NYC Marathon

Craig Ruttle/AP

Race sponsors show a trend of greater participation by older adults from late middle age on up.

A typical New York City Marathon winner is older than most victorious world-class sprinters. The female leader in this year's marathon was 36. And while they may be far behind at the finish line, amateur runners twice that age are making up a larger proportion of the field.

In Sunday’s race, for example, a record 88 people 75 and older participated, according to CBS News.

The Silent Generation — people in their 70s and 80s — represents just a sliver of the more than 50,000 entrants. But a closer look at statistics compiled by the race's sponsor shows a trend of greater participation by older adults, from late middle age on up.

During the 1990s, 7,102 people ages 60 to 69 took part; in the 2000s, the figure for 60-somethings rose to 12,401 — a jump of nearly 75 percent, while total participation increased by 25 percent. For the 70-to-79 age group, the figures rose from 946 to 1,502. Among those 80-plus, fewer than 10 took part.

But the octogenarians have broken barriers. At 85, Ed Whitlock of Milton, Ontario, became the first person 80 or older to run the 26.2-mile race in less than 4 hours, clocking in at 3 hours and 56 minutes for a Toronto marathon. Whitlock died early this year at 86.

The oldest woman ever to finish a marathon was Harriette Thompson. She was 92 when she finished a San Diego marathon in 2015 — the 16th time she had run it — in 7 hours and 24 minutes. She died this year at 94.

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