Here is a story about Kathy Martin, a 60-year-old Long island, NY real estate broker who began running when she was 30 and then, “sometime in her late 40s…discovered…she was one of the most remarkable female distance runners in the world…

Last November, in the Philadelphia half-marathon, she finished in 1:28:28, 44th out of 5,888 women. She easily won the 60-to-64 age bracket; only three of her peers were in the top 2,000. Her time was so fast she would have finished sixth among women 30 to 34…

Distance running is more popular than ever. Running USA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the sport, counted 13 million finishers in road races in 2010, up from 5.2 million in 1991 and 500,000 in 1976. Much of the rise comes from aging baby boomers, building their stamina like a retirement nest egg. In 2010, 45 percent of all finishers were 40 or older; in 1991, the percentage was 35 percent, in 1976 only 28 percent.

Recent medical research shows that many of the ravages of aging are not so much inevitable as voluntary. Muscles do not have to shrivel, joints do not have to stiffen. Earlier expectations of physical deterioration were based on studies of sedentary people. But there is a marked difference in durability between the fat and the fit, the layers and the players. People who continue to exercise intensively have a much slower rate of decline…

Martin usually works out seven days a week, not four or five. She runs and does plyometric exercises that emphasize strength and speed. She eats sensibly though not fanatically….

Her face looks young for 60, and her legs have the muscle tone of an athlete half her age…“I hope I do this until the day I die,” she said. “I want to be all used up, just a wisp of dust left.”

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