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Runners can stay step ahead of Father Time

Brom Hoban, Central Texas Running

Staff Writer
Austin 360

In his bestselling book "Born to Run," Christopher McDougall cites research done by University of Utah biologist Dr. Dennis M. Bramble, which focused on results from the ING New York City Marathon.

When analyzing age group times, Bramble had found that runners start getting faster at age 19 and that the trend continues until they peak at age 27. He also observed that times begin to decline after age 27 and that the decline is modest but steady until age 64 when they have returned to their times as a 19-year-old.

McDougall's conclusion is that humans are designed to run well our entire lives. In the Austin area, you can see examples of that virtually every weekend.

Take Dave Albertson and Betsy Clemons, for example. Both are running better than ever at age 50.

Albertson, an engineering manager at Dell Inc., never ran in high school or college, but started running in 1998 at age 38, when he moved to Round Rock from Rochester, NY.

"Over the last several years, I've been running very consistently," he says.

During the last four weeks, Albertson set personal bests at the IBM Uptown Classic 10K (37:40) and the Run for the Water 10 Miler (1:02:29). But, he says, he has made some concessions to time.

"Things don't come as easy as they used to," he says. "The recovery time is longer, and injuries take longer to heal. But I've been pretty fortunate. I haven't had many injuries. I lift weights, and I think that helps with the strength."

Albertson says that, when friends tell him they don't have time to exercise, he just shrugs. He gets up at 4:45 a.m. every day to get in his workout. He runs about 40 miles a week, building up to 55 miles a week for marathons. That includes speed sessions, tempo runs, hill work and long runs.

"I'll tell you, the competition doesn't get any easier," says Albertson. "There's a bunch of guys my age around town who are good runners. Right now, I'd say Gordon Alexander, who took second behind me at the Run for the Water 10 Miler, is my main rival. But that's good motivation. He's beat me before."

"My advice for other folks my age is to start slowly and exercise regularly. Get into a routine. Running is a lifelong type of activity."

Like Albertson, Clemons, a track and cross country coach at St. Andrew's Episcopal School, topped her age group at the Run for the Water 10 Miler on Oct. 31. Clemons started running 31 years ago, when she was a University of Texas student.

"These days, I don't run as many miles, but I do try to train more efficiently," she says. "Sometimes I train with my cross country team, and I get in my long runs with a training partner, Catherine Miller. There are different people I try to beat, like Julie Seaton. I beat her at the Run for the Water 10 Miler, but she beat me two weeks earlier."

"I always look for Betsy and all the other 50-and-over runners," says Seaton, who is 51 and nipped Clemons at IBM. "You never know who's going to show up. I see rivals as a big motivation. When I race, I go out to win," adds Seaton, a systems analyst for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Clemons says, "I love running, whether it's three miles or a marathon. I think a lot of people get to a certain age, and think they can't keep running. I say, `Sure you can.' "

Upcoming races

Saturday

• Shake a Leg at the Lake 5K, 9 a.m. at the Lakeway Swim Center in Lakeway. See www.passportsmarketing.com .

Sunday

• Fort Worth Marathon at LaGrave Field, Fort Worth. 6:30 a.m. walkers; 7:30 a.m. runners. See www.fortworthmarathon.org .

• Rock `n' Roll San Antonio Marathon and Half Marathon, 7:15 a.m. in downtown San Antonio. See www.san-antoniocompetitor.com .