Predictors of long-distance race performance in master runners

Emma J. Lee, Eric M. Snyder, Christopher J. Lundstrom


Peak aerobic power (V ̇O2peak) and parameters related to training are associated with long-distance running performance in master athletes. Running economy (RE) predicts performance in younger runners, but its relationship to racing ability in older athletes is unclear. Allometrically scaled RE (alloV ̇O2; ml kg-0.66 min-1), energy cost (EC; kcal kg-1 km-1), and percent of V ̇O2peak (%V ̇O2peak) required in a submaximal bout represent RE more accurately than V ̇O2 does. The VDOT score, estimating V ̇O2peak and RE, can be used to compare races of different distances. Purpose: To determine predictors of temperature-converted VDOT in master runners training for a long-distance race (10-26.2 mi). Methods: Twenty-three master runners (age 57±9 years; eight females) performed treadmill marathon-intensity-effort (MIE) and V ̇O2peak tests within four weeks of their goal race. The MIE occurred at 88% of predicted maximum heart rate, which corresponds to estimated marathon intensity. Participants completed online training-history surveys. Forward stepwise multiple linear regression was used to find key predictors of VDOT. The alpha level for significance was 0.05. Results: Converted VDOT was significantly associated with 3-year peak weekly training distance (3YP) (r = 0.454, p = 0.039), V ̇O2peak (r = 0.845, p = 0.000), alloV ̇O2 (r = 0.623, p = 0.005), and EC (r = -0.528, p = 0.018). The best-fitting model included V ̇O2peak and 3YP (r = 0.898). Conclusion: Physiological and training factors are related to race performance in master runners. The best predictors of VDOT are V ̇O2peak and 3YP. Training to enhance these variables may improve distance-running performance in masters.


VO2peak; Running economy; Training


Barnes, K. R., & Kilding, A. E. (2015). Running economy: measurement, norms, and determining factors. Sports Medicine-Open, 1(1), 1-15.

Basset, D. R., Jr. , & Howley, E. T. (2000). Limiting factors for maximum oxygen uptake and determinants of endurance performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(1), 70.

Berg, K. (2003). Endurance Training and Performance in Runners. Sports Medicine, 33(1), 59-73.

Borg, G. A., & Noble, B. J. (1974). Perceived exertion. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 2(1), 131-154.

Braun, W. A., & Paulson, S. (2012). The Effects of a Downhill Running Bout on Running Economy. Research in Sports Medicine, 20(3), 274-285.

Brisswalter, J., & Nosaka, K. (2013). Neuromuscular Factors Associated with Decline in Long-Distance Running Performance in Master Athletes. Sports Medicine, 43(1), 51-63.

Brisswalter, J., Wu, S. S. X., Sultana, F., Bernard, T., & Abbiss, C. R. (2014). Age difference in efficiency of locomotion and maximal power output in well-trained triathletes. European journal of applied physiology, 114(12), 2579-2586.

Cavagna, G. A., Legramandi, M. A., & Peyré-Tartaruga, L. A. (2008). Old Men Running: Mechanical Work and Elastic Bounce. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 275(1633), 411-418.

Cheuvront, S. N., & Haymes, E. M. (2001). Thermoregulation and Marathon Running. Sports Medicine, 31(10), 743-762.

Costill, D. L., Thomason, H., & Roberts, E. (1973). Fractional utilization of the aerobic capacity during distance running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 5(4), 248-252.

Coyle, E. F. (2007). Physiological Regulation of Marathon Performance. Sports Medicine, 37(4), 306-311.

Daniels, J. (2014). Daniels's Running Formula. In T. Hanlon, C. Marty, & T. Wolpert (Eds.), Daniels' Running Formula (3rd ed., pp. 77-104). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Daniels, J., & Gilbert, J. (1979). Oxygen power: Performance tables for distance runners. Tempe, Arizona.

Dehn, M. M., & Bruce, R. A. (1972). Longitudinal variations in maximal oxygen intake with age and activity. Journal of applied physiology, 33(6), 805-807.

Dill, D. B., Robinson, S., & Ross, J. C. (1967). A longitudinal study of 16 champion runners. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 7(1), 4-27.

El Helou, N., Tafflet, M., Berthelot, G., Tolaini, J., Marc, A., Guillaume, M., . . . Toussaint, J.-F. (2012). Impact of Environmental Parameters on Marathon Running Performance. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e37407.

Eskurza, I., Donato, A. J., Moreau, K. L., Seals, D. R., & Tanaka, H. (2002). Changes in maximal aerobic capacity with age in endurance-trained women: 7-yr follow-up. Journal of applied physiology, 92(6), 2303.

Evans, S. L., Davy, K. P., Stevenson, E. T., Reiling, M. J., & Seals, D. R. (1995). Physiological Determinants Of 10 Km Performance In Competitive Female Distance Runners Of Different Ages. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 27(5), S236.

Evans, S. L., Davy, K. P., Stevenson, E. T., & Seals, D. R. (1995). Physiological determinants of 10-km performance in highly trained female runners of different ages. Journal of applied physiology, 78(5), 1931.

Foster, C. (1983). VO2 max and training indices as determinants of competitive running performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1(1), 13-22.

Holloszy, J. O., Rennie, M. J., Hickson, R. C., Conlee, R. K., & Hagberg, J. M. (1977). Physiological consequences of the biochemical adaptations to endurance exercise. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 301(1), 440-450.

Joyner, M. J. (1993). Physiological Limiting Factors and Distance Running: Influence of Gender and Age on Record Performances. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 21(1), 103-134.

Joyner, M. J., & Coyle, E. F. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. The Journal of Physiology, 586(1), 35-44.

Lepers, R., & Cattagni, T. (2012). Do older athletes reach limits in their performance during marathon running? AGE, 34(3), 773-781.

Lepers, R., & Stapley, P. J. (2016). Master Athletes Are Extending the Limits of Human Endurance. Frontiers in Physiology, 7, 613.

Londeree, B. R., Thomas, T. R., Ziogas, G., Smith, T. D., & Zhang, Q. (1995). %VO2max versus %HRmax regressions for six modes of exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 27(3), 458-461.

Morgan, D. W., Bransford, D. R., Costill, D. L., Daniels, J., Howley, E. T., & Krahenbuhl, G. S. (1995). Variation in the aerobic demand of running among trained and untrained subjects. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 27(3), 404-409.

Noakes, T. D. (1988). Implications of exercise testing for prediction of athletic performance: a contemporary perspective. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 20(4), 319-330.

Péronnet, F., & Massicotte, D. (1991). Table of nonprotein respiratory quotient: an update. Can J Sport Sci, 16(1), 23-29.

Pimentel, A. E., Gentile, C. L., Tanaka, H., Seals, D. R., & Gates, P. E. (2003). Greater rate of decline in maximal aerobic capacity with age in endurance-trained than in sedentary men. Journal of applied physiology, 94(6), 2406.

Pollock, M. L., Foster, C., Knapp, D., Rod, J. L., & Schmidt, D. H. (1987). Effect of age and training on aerobic capacity and body composition of master athletes. Journal of applied physiology, 62(2), 725.

Pollock, M. L., Mengelkoch, L. J., Graves, J. E., Lowenthal, D. T., Limacher, M. C., Foster, C., & Wilmore, J. H. (1997). Twenty-year follow-up of aerobic power and body composition of older track athletes. Journal of applied physiology, 82(5), 1508.

Quinn, T. J., Manley, M. J., Aziz, J., Padham, J. L., & MacKenzie, A. M. (2011). Aging and Factors Related to Running Economy. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(11).

Reaburn, P., & Dascombe, B. (2008). Endurance performance in masters athletes. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 5(1), 31-42.

Reed, J. L., & Gibbs, J. C. (2016). Marathon Training: Gender and Age Aspects. In C. Zinner & B. Sperlich (Eds.), Marathon Running: Physiology, Psychology, Nutrition and Training Aspects (pp. 125-152). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Rogers, M. A., Hagberg, J. M., Martin, W. H., Ehsani, A. A., & Holloszy, J. O. (1990). Decline in VO2max with aging in master athletes and sedentary men. Journal of applied physiology, 68(5), 2195.

Saunders, P. U., Pyne, D. B., Telford, R. D., & Hawley, J. A. (2004). Factors Affecting Running Economy in Trained Distance Runners. Sports Medicine, 34(7), 465-485.

Sultana, F., Abbiss, C. R., Louis, J., Bernard, T., Hausswirth, C., & Brisswalter, J. (2012). Age-related changes in cardio-respiratory responses and muscular performance following an Olympic triathlon in well-trained triathletes. European journal of applied physiology, 112(4), 1549-1556.

Swain, D. P., Abernathy, K. S., Smith, C. S., Lee, S. J., & Bunn, S. A. (1994). Target heart rates for the development of cardiorespiratory fitness. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(1), 112-116.

Tanaka, H., Desouza, C. A., Jones, P. P., Stevenson, E. T., Davy, K. P., & Seals, D. R. (1997). Greater rate of decline in maximal aerobic capacity with age in physically active vs. sedentary healthy women. Journal of applied physiology, 83(6), 1947.

Tanaka, H., Monahan, K. D., & Seals, D. R. (2001). Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 37(1), 153-156.

Tanaka, H., & Seals, D. R. (2003). Invited Review: Dynamic exercise performance in Masters athletes: insight into the effects of primary human aging on physiological functional capacity. Journal of applied physiology, 95(5), 2152.

Tanaka, H., & Seals, D. R. (2008). Endurance exercise performance in Masters athletes: age-associated changes and underlying physiological mechanisms. The Journal of Physiology, 586(1), 55-63.

Trappe, S. W., Costill, D. L., Vukovich, M. D., Jones, J., & Melham, T. (1996). Aging among elite distance runners: a 22-yr longitudinal study. Journal of applied physiology, 80(1), 285.

Wiswell, R. A., Hawkins, S. A., Jaque, S. V., Hyslop, D., Constantino, N., Tarpenning, K., . . . Schroeder, E. T. (2001). Relationship Between Physiological Loss, Performance Decrement, and Age in Master Athletes. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 56(10), M618-M626.

Wiswell, R. A., Jaque, S. V., Marcell, T. J., Hawkins, S. A., Tarpenning, K. M., Constantino, N., & Hyslop, D. M. (2000). Maximal aerobic power, lactate threshold, and running performance in master athletes. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 32(6), 1165-1170.


License URL: