Masters athletes (those more than 35 years old) will slow down. The question is simply the rate. Numerous studies have demonstrated that compared to their inactive counterparts who peak at 35 and begin a rapid decline, athletes have a slower gentler curve, with decline somewhere between 50 and 70 years old (depending on the sport and the study cited).
Knecthle, et al 2012 studied half-marathoners, marathoners and ultra-marathoners over 35 years old. It was hypothesized that given muscle wasting after 35 years old, the athletes would have poorer VO2 maxes and thus begin to slow down.
Preliminary evidence indicated that world-class performances in the marathon could only be maintained between the ages of 25 and 35 years old, for half-marathons between 20 and 55 and for ultra-marathons 30-49.
Anthropometric analysis of the 3 groups revealed no significant change (P >.05). They had comparable body mass, height, BMI, and muscle mass. The changes began with fat mass. Half-marathoners has P<.05 more fat than the marathoners who had P<.05 more fate than the ultra-marathoners. Running distance and hours spent running were also P<.05 different between groups but it was found the speed of running did not vary greatly.
It was found that half-marathoners and marathoners rely on speed while ultra-marathoners rely on training volume. It was also determined that carrying less fat mass helped with performance.
This raises interesting questions since muscle mass did not seem to play a role. Clearly having some type I muscle fibres is important but the question of bulky runners must be raised. If a heavy set runner could be taught to run efficiently, could he run with the best of them since it seems that speed and body fat play more of a role than muscle bulk.
This will be an interesting area of research to follow and is it progresses we will continue to deliver you more information. Keep training.