Age is Just a Number

Photo by Mark Grubb

70-Year-Old Sets World Age Group Record for Marathon

From Runner’s World
By Sarah Lorge Butler

Gene Dykes of Pennsylvania averages 6:39 pace and breaks Ed Whitlock’s famous mark.

Gene Dykes, a 70-year-old retired computer programmer who discovered a talent for distance running late in life, set a world record for his age group in the marathon on December 15 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Dykes ran 2:54:23, breaking the previous record—2:54:48—set by the great Canadian runner Ed Whitlock (when he was 73) by 25 seconds. Whitlock ran his record, thought by many to be untouchable, in 2004.

Dykes, who averaged 6:39 pace for the 26.2 miles, told Runner’s World after the race that he wasn’t sure that his achievement had sunk in yet.

“My first thought was that this really frees up my schedule for next year,” he said. He can sign up for the races he enjoys—ultramarathons and hard marathons on courses that aren’t record-eligible—instead of chasing Whitlock’s mark.

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A frequent racer, Dykes has a knack for recovering quickly from difficult efforts. In October, he ran the Toronto Marathon in 2:55:17 to come within 30 seconds of the age-group record. Then just two weeks ago, he ran an ultra in San Francisco, the Vista Verde Skyline 50K (31 miles) with his daughter on December 1, and the California International Marathon on December 2. It’s a highly unusual racing schedule for an elite athlete.

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