Runners 50 years and older represent one of the fastest-growing age groups participating in marathons. As the total number of runners finishing marathons in the U.S. doubled to 518,000 in the 20 years ended in 2011, the number of finishers age 50 and older nearly tripled to 92,200, or about 18% of the total. At the ING New York Marathon, this weekend, more than 1 out of every 5 finishers at last year's race, or 9,710 athletes, ran in 50-and-older age groups.
Of course, the stresses of long-distance running are harder on aging joints, feet, muscles and backs, leaving older marathoners more prone to injury than younger competitors. Some coaches say aging marathoners need to adopt different techniques than younger people when training for a race, including more cross-training sessions in the pool and on a bike and allowing extra time for rest and recovery between practice runs.