As runners, we’re constantly caught up in numbers, how fast, how far, by how much…. And as we get older, we measure ourselves against our best times. Runners are among the few people who look forward to stepping up in age to the next division.
It’s well-known that endurance athletes can continue to compete for life. But all too often, we tend to look at high-achieving older runners as oddities—not really taking the time to understand or appreciate their accomplishments.
Well, check this out. 70-year old Gene Dykes of Philadelphia ran a 2:57:43 marathon this past April at the Rotterdam Marathon. His time was just a few minutes shy of Canadian Ed Whitlock’s 70-74 record of 2:54:48, which he ran at the age of 73 at the 2004 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
And get this: Dykes ran Boston in crazy challenging conditions a week later, clocking 3:16:20! Let’s put these times in perspective. Using two different runner’s age-graded calculators, Dykes’ 2:54:48 equates to a 2:11:36, or a 2:06:54…Either way, simply beyond impressive. How can a guy who is literally three times as old as many of us out there, run like that?
Dykes has an interesting running history. He first started running when he was 13 in 1961, and then later ran track in high school and college. In 1997, he ran the Philadelphia Marathon as a “bucket list” item but didn’t run for six years after the race.
Part II of his running career began in 2003 after a group of runners encouraged him to join them and later on to enter some races.
Not only did he excel, but he went on to ruin ultras. In 2016, he won Laz ARFTA Ultra, at age 68, running 205 miles in 68 hours. In 2017, Dykes ran the Bigfoot 200, Tahoe 200 and Moab 240…He also ran 23:41:22 right here in Texas at the Rocky Racoon 100 in Huntsville.
So, the next time you blame a sub-par performance on age, think again.
His parting piece of advice to all runners interested in racing good times?
“Don’t start off too fast! It’s much more fun and productive to run even or negative splits.”
Upcoming Races: Saturday, May 12, the Texas Switchback—26.2M, 13.1M, 10K trail run at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch in Dripping Springs. Events start at 7:00 a.m. Saturday, May 19 at 8:00 a.m., the Daisy 5K at Camp Mabry, Austin.