PROFILE: How Gene Dykes ran a 2:54 marathon at age 70

Dykes ran 2:57:17 at Rotterdam in April.
Last weekend in Jacksonville, FL, 70-year-old Gene Dykes, from Philadelphia, ran a 2:54:23 marathon--the fastest ever by a 70+ runner, breaking the mark of 2:54:48, held by the legendary Ed Whitlock. (Run when Whitlock was 73.) Dykes had run two previous sub-3:00s this year since he turned 70 in early April. Before 2018, his marathon PR was 3:04:27 in 2015. His Jacksonville performance may not count as an American age-group record, as the event was apparently unsanctioned by USATF. However, it was certified and met the other record-eligible standards. Here Dykes provides some of his background, and explains how he has run so fast this year.

How did you run so much faster at 70 than at any earlier age? There are three key answers to that: Being an elite runner at a younger age appears to be one of the most accurate signs that you won’t be an elite at an older age.  I was most definitely not an elite runner early on. My coach hated me when I totally stunk up the joint on the Lehigh University track team. Since I couldn’t cut it at the distance runs (880, mile, 2-mile), I taught myself triple jump and intermediate hurdles to become of value to the team.  

This experience gave me a long-lasting and deeply embedded belief that I was a mediocre runner at best.  It’s still hard for me to believe that I’m doing so well. Instead of racing, I threw my energy into golf and bowling, where I enjoyed considerable success.  I still liked running, though, so I was an occasional jogger after college. Sometimes in shape and sometimes not, but the important thing for my current career is that I wasn’t burning myself out racing.

I ran my first marathon (NYC) in 2006 at the age of 58.  For the next seven years, I gradually improved, lowering my PR from that initial 3:43 to a 3:16 at Steamtown.  Not bad, of course, but nothing that was going to turn heads. My next PR attempt was at the Toronto Marathon and I was extremely disappointed with a 3:29.  

I figured I was finally succumbing to the ravages of old age, so in one last attempt to see how good I could be, I hired a coach.  What a revelation! After just five months of his training, I ran a 3:09 at Boston, making the podium with a 3rd place finish in the M65 group.  Each year since then, I’ve improved even more, and not only improved, I truly believe I’m improving more each year than I improved the year before.  Just look at my marathon PR which went from 3:04 to 2:54. PR’s at all distances this year were big improvements. What could possibly be going on here?  Lots of runners didn’t burn themselves out earlier and have hired coaches - why am I enjoying such singular success?

Hand in hand with trying to improve my racing times each year, I also tried to outdo myself each year with running adventures.  Starting with four and five day supported adventure runs, I moved on to six and eight day stage races. I started running the occasional 50K, and then 50-milers, and then 100-milers, 120-milers, and then a 200-miler.  How do you top that? Last year I ran three 200-milers in three months.

How am I going to top that next year?  With just a week or two between races, I’m going to run two 50-milers, a 100-miler, and a 200-miler in January and February.  That’s the start of my training for the Boston Marathon next year. I believe that running these huge ultras gives me the kind of strong base that can be leveraged into marathon speed with a little targeted training.
Catching a breather after his
2:54:23 in Jacksonville last weekend.
Breaking down the pieces: How did you train differently? What was your average mileage? What were key workouts that you focused on in each week? I really didn’t train any differently at all!  My average mileage in a training week is usually 40-50 miles.  Every week contains a couple recovery runs, a couple general aerobic runs, and some kind of faster workout, which my coach mixes up so much there is really nothing typical.
The only thing I did differently for Jacksonville than Rotterdam or Toronto was that I ran both a 50K trail race and the California International Marathon on consecutive days just two weeks beforehand.  Not your typical prep for a world record attempt!

[Please check out this page to learn two ways you can subscribe--free!--to updates from It's the best way to make sure you never miss anything. Thanks.]

Did you do any training you haven't done in the past, ie, strength training, hill bounding, yoga? Nope.  No strength training, no cross training, no stretching… I just run!
Did your weight or nutrition change in 2018? What's your height and weight, and typical diet? Between major races, my weight drifts up to about 142 or so on my 5’10”, but I always try to get under 140 for a race.  Keeping my weight down is the hardest part of training! I did a miserable job of losing weight for Jacksonville, so with one week to go I lost five pounds in four days, and I probably gained back a pound in the three days before the race to weigh 138.  Two seconds per pound per mile is a very compelling argument for weighing as little as possible. I think I could get into the lower 130’s before crossing the counterproductive threshold, but I enjoy eating too much. I’ll eat anything in moderation – no fat/carb/sugar/vegan restrictions.
Diet for several days pre marathon? Normal diet until the night before a race.  Then, I pick foods that I think are easily digested.
Did you try any of the things people talk about these days--beets, low carb, ketones, caffeine? Nope, nope, nope, nope.
Dykes won the 1500, 5000 and 10,000
at Outdoor Nationals last summer.
Did your competition nutrition change, either before or during races? That was a major change!  At CIM two weeks ago I tried Maurten’s 320.  Remarkable stuff! Instead of feeling queasy during a race after consuming about 250 calories of liquid nutrition, I was able to drink 640 calories of Maurten’s with absolutely no GI issues.
Anything else? Let’s talk about hydration. One of the worst pieces of advice given to marathoners is to get hydrated beforehand.  When the start gun goes off, it seems like half the field heads for the nearest trees. There’s water every two miles – you are not going to die of thirst out there!  I intentionally start a little on the dehydrated side and I try to maintain that state throughout the race. When a record is at stake, you really can’t afford a pit stop. Lastly,
Shoes – those Nike 4% are the real deal!

Splits – I try for even effort the entire way, which would be even splits on a flat course.

PROFILE: Ellen Hart has been running for 39 years

Hart competed in the 2018 Kona
Ironman World Championships.
Ellen Hart attended Harvard in the late 1970s, ran her first marathon in 1979, and placed 11th in 2:35:04 in the 1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.  She continued running for many years, then switched mainly to triathlon. She was also married to the Mayor of Denver, later the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy. Her struggles with bulimia and anorexia were depicted in the 1996 made-for-TV movie, "Dying to be Perfect." Now 60, Hart lives in Denver.

Your career/profession? I’ve done various things over the past 4 decades, including being a lawyer, an administrator, a nutrition educator, and a full-time mom for my 3 kids. My children are grown now, but the parenting process is still not over, I’m happy to say. 

I spent a period of time training full-time for running.  In triathlon, though not a pro, I've had the good fortune to be able to devote more time to my training than the average age grouper who works full time. I’ve had some un-traditional jobs, such as First Lady of Denver when

PROFILE--Benji Durden logged a 190-mile training week last month. Honest. And he's 67.

Benji Durden, now 67, has done things in running that few can match. Among them: He placed second in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials (in the U.S. boycott year, 1980, so he didn't get to compete in the Olympics), finished third in the Boston Marathon, and has a personal marathon best of 2:09:57. But we're more impressed by something he did last month: He ran a 190-mile training week, his all-time high. (And his wife wasn't far behind him. See below.)

Your professional career? My wife, Amie, and I time running races in and around Boulder, Colorado, where we live. (Occasionally we have timed other things like XC ski races, bike races, etc).

When did you start running and WHY? I wanted to be a competitive athlete. I tried baseball, but the ball speeding by my head (this was before helmets) made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like getting hit when I tried football. I was an okay swimmer, but the early morning practice in a cold pool wasn’t that much fun. Finally, I went out for track and selected the pole vault. I moved to running when I saw a kid break his arm and collarbone when his pole snapped. So in 1965 I became a runner.

Peak running? I ran as much as 140/week for a period, but found my best racing was when I stayed in the 85-95/week range.

Best performances? I ran best as a marathoner with a 2:10:41 to make the 1980 USA Olympic Team and a 2:09:57 to finish

PROFILE--George Banker has been running for 37 years

Profile -- George Banker has been running for 37 years
George Banker, a retired Technical Sergeant (TSgt.) in the U.S. Air Force followed by 25 years at IBM, has run 113 marathons. He clocked his 100th at the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). He was averaging 50 miles per week prior to his heart surgery in 2017. Nothing keeps Banker, who resides in Fort Washington MD, down. “If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it done.”

Started running and why? June 1982. (DOB: December, 1949). I picked up running while working for IBM. Every summer, my office sponsored a one-mile run that the branch director won every year. When they asked me, then 32, to participate, I thought I’d kick the butt of the “old gray-haired man.” Well, I didn’t win it, didn’t even come close. Ran a 12-minute mile and thought I’d die. It was ugly. I decided to become a better runner and started reading running magazines. My first race was the 1982 Philadelphia Distance Run (half-marathon). My goal was to finish in two hours and I ran it in

RESEARCH--For telomere health, aerobic training beats strength training

Having grown up mainly concerned about our cholesterol and blood pressure (and weekly mileage total, of course), many of us have trouble absorbing some of the newer health-fitness markers. One of those is telomeres--the tough little strands, sometimes compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces--at the end of chromosomes. 

Deteriorating telomeres are a bad thing, a sign of aging and disease. Anything that helps to maintain telomere health is essentially a good thing. An anti-aging thing. Previous research has shown that exercise protects telomeres and helps them regenerate. That's a very good thing.

Now German investigators have shown for the first time that endurance aerobic training and interval training promote telomere health, while strength training does not. This doesn't mean you should abandon strength training; you shouldn't. It has many benefits. Among them: It helps protect you from falls.

But as far as total health and anti-aging vigor go, it appears that endurance training beats strength training. As the German scientists point out, early homo probably depended more on running (and even sprinting) for survival than on lifting heavy objects. In their paper, the authors conclude: "Our data support ESC [European Society of Cardiologists] current guideline that resistance exercise should be complimentary to endurance training rather than a substitute."

In the actual prospective, randomized, controlled trial reported in the European Heart Journal, it was shown that endurance training (3 x 45 minutes/week) and interval training (3 x 45/wk) improved markers of telomere health while circuit weight training (3 x 45/week) did not.

PROFILE--Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been exercising hard for 70 years

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., has been practicing and espousing exercise-as-medicine for 70 years. A runner for many years and now an avid cyclist, Mirkin, 83, continues to produce a free and up-to-date website and e-newsletter with the latest info on fitness, nutrition, and health. You can subscribe here.

Career-profession? A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. 

Dr. Mirkin hosted a popular call-in radio show on fitness and health that was syndicated in more than 120 cities. He has written 16 books including The Sportsmedicine Book, the best-selling book on the subject that has been translated into many languages. His latest book is The Healthy Heart Miracle, published by HarperCollins. 

When did you start running and WHY? I went out for cross country at age 14 in my freshman year in high school because I thought

RESEARCH: New data supports our exercise habit, especially for racers

Believe it or not, some doctors and scientists are trying to keep up with us. They’re looking for data and explanations to understand why so many Lifetime Runners enjoy such outstanding health and vigor.

In particular, a group at Ball State University is near the forefront. They are continuing the pioneer work that Dr. David Costill first began there in the 1960s. I was a guinea pig in his lab then. It hurt--a muscle biopsy amounts to a sharp stabbing! And consecutive days of hard, two-hour runs on a treadmills are … just hard.

In a new paper, Scott Trappe and Ball State colleagues investigated the cardiovascular and muscle health of folks just like us. Trappe called them

ESSAY--Amby Burfoot is running his 56th consecutive Manchester road race

H.S. Yearbook photo, 1964
Thursday morning--Thanksgiving day--I expect to line up in the middle of Main St., Manchester, CT, for the annual 5-miler that’s actually 4.748 miles. In Connecticut, land of steady habits, we don’t change road race distances. We hold to tradition.

I have been here before. Fifty-five times, in fact. Consecutively. Here are a few things I remember:

1963: In my first-ever road race, I was thrilled to be running a distance longer than the 3 miles of my high school cross country races, and impressed by the range of humanity lining up next to me--a few young kids, several hundred road-race veterans, a guy with one arm, a runner in his 60s (how old can you get?). I couldn’t believe the size of the crowds along the course, especially near the finish line.
Manchester finish crowds, mid 1960s
H.S. xc, 1963
1968: Seven months after winning the Boston Marathon, I won Manchester for the first of nine times. Not a bad year.
Boston Marathon, 1968
Several Manchester winning photos.

1978: I stopped winning Manchester when World XC champ John Treacy broke the tape in 1978. I thought it was great that Manchester had leaped onto the world stage. Forty years later, John returned, and we had a great reunion.
November, 2017
Treacy above; Eamonn Coghlan, below
Various years: Stuff happens, good and bad. I've run Manchester with walking pneumonia that caused a thick throat crackle when I breathed, and also with Achilles tendinitis that likewise crackled (look up "crepitus"). Too name but a few of the challenging years. But it was great fun to run the race with Julia Chase Brand in 2011 on the 50th anniversary of her breakthrough Manchester finish of 1961.
At finish: "Yes I can."
At start, 1961: "No you can't."

1998: On a rainy morning, I carried an umbrella to keep my wife comfortable on her 37th birthday. At our wedding three years earlier, I had promised to keep her “warm, dry, and well-fed.” It's been worth the little extra effort.

2001: I posed with longtime hero Charley "Doc" Robbins before the start of his 50th consecutive (and last) Manchester. Nowadays, I look forward every year to seeing his daughter, Barrie. She of course runs the race barefoot, as her father did.

2013: It was supposed to be a big celebration, my 51st Manchester in a row. Instead, I got sick with a weird microbiome disease that caused me to lose 13 lbs ... and even more strength and health. Basically, I was a wreck. Only the support of family and friends got me through the 5 miles that morning. Two months later, my body began to heal itself. I’ve been fine ever since.
I needed an escort to guide me to the start.
Fortunately, I had the best--family.

2011-2017: A highlight of recent Thanksgivings has been the annual visit from my one-and-only namesake, “Little Amby,” who will turn 9 in a couple of months. His dad runs Manchester every year.
Our first get-together in 2011

2017: I talked Bernard Lagat into posing for a photo with my Manchester painter's cap, which I have been wearing since 2013. Each Thanksgiving, I cross off the previous year's total Manchesters finished, and add a new one. Lagat didn't come easy. He spent 5 minutes investigating the cap, inside and out, to make sure it had no sponsor logos that would compete with his Nike contract.

2018: Weather forecast--windchill in the single digits. I'm thinking of wearing a balaclava for the first time. Whatever it takes. To keep the streak alive. My recent book is titled Run Forever, but I'm no nut job. I just think we might as well have clear, bold, and optimistic goals. Look for me on the starting line.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

COMEBACK KID: After 31 years away from running Gregg Duckworth plunged back in

New York City Marathon, 2018
Gregg Duckworth, (born May, 1955) of Peru, Illinois, came back to running marathons after a 31-year break. In his first life as a runner,1978-85, he completed nine marathons, plus one 50-mile ultra-marathon. Then changes in jobs, and life in general sidelined him for 31 years. His “one more marathon” was Chicago in 2015. He ran Chicago again in 2017 and the New York City Marathon in 2018.

Why did you stop running? In 1984 I was doing 70 miles per week and was in the best shape of my life. But all that training was putting a lot of stress on my body, and at 6-foot-7 with a lanky build, my body never seemed ideal for running. I started out 1985 thinking if I ran more I would be even faster. Then, in July knee troubles appeared and they didn’t go away. A specialist eventually scoped out the knee but found no major damage. Then a new job in another state and life changes in general pulled me further away from running. I made some attempts to run but was still bothered by knee soreness. After that my way of dealing with all of it was to step away from running completely, mentally and physically. I loved running, and now that I couldn’t, I didn’t want to be reminded of that.

 Why did you decide to return to running after a 31-year hiatus? When I turned 58 in the spring of 2013 the idea was rolling around in my brain. It nagged at me like unfinished business left on the table. I figured that maybe if I retired at 65 I’d have time to pursue running again. But at the same time a contrary thought was telling me, why wait? And I often thought about a great line from

PROFILE--Gillian Adams Horovitz has been running for 50 years

Racing in the 1988 NYC Marathon
During the 1980s, Gillian Adams Horovitz was among the top echelon of marathoners, ranked sixth female runner in the world by The Runner magazine in 1980. She placed second to Grete Waitz in the 1979 New York City Marathon. During her career, she ran 94 marathons with a PR of 2:36 (Grandma’s, 1993) sometimes competing in 10 a year. Most of them were under three hours, such as the 1980 Essonne (France) Marathon that she won in 2:39:18 just four weeks before finishing third at Boston in 2:39:17. Now 63, and living in Greenwich Village with her husband, Horovitz no longer runs competitively. But she still has the heart of a runner (and that warm, welcoming smile) and is just as happy cheering for others at a race.

Why and when did you start running? I started running in May 1968 (born 1955, Bromley, England). I took my first run with a friend from school and immediately loved it. Started off doing track and field-sprints, hurdles (occasionally), long jump, high jump, discus, shot put, javelin and relays. In autumn and winter, I did road relays and cross-country. I would rush home from school every Friday to read my copy

10 things you need to know about the new national exercise guidelines

You already know a lot. But the new guidelines extend the benefits of regular physical activity to prevention of more cancers and other illnesses. Here are the 10 most important new findings.

  1. The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides evidence-based recommendations for adults and youth ages 3 through 17 to safely get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. There are new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 and updated guidelines for youth ages 6 through 17, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, adults with chronic health conditions, and adults with disabilities.
  2. The new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 state that preschool-aged children should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Adults caring for children this age should encourage active play (light, moderate, or vigorous intensity) and aim for at least 3 hours per day.
  3. The recommended amount of physical activity for youth ages 6 through 17 is the same. Each day, youth ages 6 through 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity to attain the most health benefits from physical activity. Most activity can be aerobic, like

PROFILE--Budd Coates has been running for 46 years

(11-18) Budd Coates, 61, has qualified for four Olympic Marathon Trials, run 117,000 miles, established a marathon PR of 2:13:02, spent decades at Rodale Inc (then the Runner's World owner) as fitness director, taught hundreds of beginning runners, written a book titled Running On Air, and currently works for Sole Supports, an orthotics company.
Professional career? While I had this fantasy of being a “professional runner”, I didn’t have the confidence that it could support me and my family. So I accepted a job with Rodale Press as their Employee Health and Fitness Director. I was tasked with developing a program for employees and their families. After a modest start on the 2nd floor of a closed factory, our program quickly became a success, and we built a self-standing facility within 5 years.

We were one of the first companies to ban smoking in the workplace, offer cholesterol screening, skin screening, and more. One of the many classes I offered was a Beginning Running Class, and our President at the time graduated from that class and became so interested in running that

RESEARCH--Exercise Improves Gut Bacteria

Many studies show that exercise helps to prevent heart attacks, and it may do so by changing the bacteria in your colon. A recent study from Finland shows that exercising for just six weeks, without any additional change in diet or lifestyle, can increase healthful anti-inflammatory bacteria (Akkermansia) and reduce harmful inflammation-promoting Proteobacteria in your colon (Front Microbiol, October 3, 2018).

In this study, 17 sedentary and overweight women started a heart-rate-regulated exercise program on stationary bicycles for three training sessions per week. After six weeks, stool cultures showed healthful colon bacteria changes, even though the subjects did not lose any weight. There was also a significant reduction in phospholipids and cholesterol in VLDL cholesterol, which is believed to help prevent heart attacks because VLDL cholesterol is converted into the harmful LDL cholesterol that helps to form plaques in your arteries. Exercise also decreased Vascular Adhesion Protein-1, a measure of inflammation that causes plaques to form in arteries and break off to cause heart attacks.

Exercise Promotes Good Gut Bacteria
Two previous studies, one in