Where Are All the 60-Year-Olds?

Dave McGillivray wonders where his contemporaries have gone as he enjoys the age-group awards he earned in his recent triathlons.

By: Dave McGillivray, for Runner's World

I did my fifth and final triathlon of the 2015 season recently—the Pumpkinman Half Ironman in Maine. In this year's five races, I finished third, second, first, second, and second in my age group. I’m satisfied with that, but I’ve still put my awards into perspective. Okay, I can run well, but I stink at swimming and stink at biking. If you look at the entry lists of these races, you don’t see many participants who are 60 years old or older. In the Pumpkinman, I think there were six finishers in my age group.

Of course, they’re all to be commended for their efforts, but I wonder: Why so few? What happened to the people who competed against me in triathlons in the ‘80s and ‘90s? The same thing is happening in road races. Where did my contemporaries go?

There were dozens and dozens of 40+ and 50+ athletes in the Pumpkinman, and many performed amazingly. In fact, the second- and third-place overall finishers were both in their 40s! I wonder if they will still be doing tris 10 to 20 years from now.

I suppose a few things could have contributed to this phenomenon:

Did some people lose interest in the sport? For athletes who have been running and doing triathlons for 20+ years, I suppose a time could come where they say, “Okay, I’ve had enough. Time to focus on other things.” I get that.

Did some people get injured or ill? This is the more likely reason. I think most folks who take running and triathlon seriously never really lose interest—endurance exercise becomes a lifestyle. Unfortunately, some athletes end up with wear and tear that causes them to pull back or retire from racing. Surprisingly, many people tell me that an illness, not an injury, has led to their retirement, and most of the time, that illness is heart-related. Even though I have been running all my life, I was diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease two years ago but have been able to reverse much of it on my own and have been able to run and exercise as much as I ever have in my life…knock on wood.

Do some people lack the time or the money? Ah, that four-letter word—time! That always gets me. Most of the time (no pun intended), using a lack of time as an excuse only means you have not set your priorities right (in my opinion). Your health is more important than anything. However, the time commitment to train for a triathlon is huge, so I get that, too. Many of us have kids or grandkids, may own a business, and so on. It is so challenging to find an extra two to four hours per day to train for a triathlon properly. And, it is getting more and more expensive to do these races, so some must limit the number of events they can participate in.

I don’t know about the rest of the 60-year-olds on this planet, but I’m going to continue to do this until I am at least 120 years old. What is more important in our lives but to stay fit, to stay healthy, and to stay young? On the other hand, maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut so I can continue to make the podium in the future!

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Dave McGillivray is president of DMSE, Inc., and has been Race Director at the Boston Marathon since 2001.