Training – How Fast Can You Get? The Great Bear Run Makes a Runner Wonder

The Needham Track Club held its 26th Annual Great Bear Run on May 15 to raise money for prostate cancer research. There was a 5-K and shorter runs for the kids.

My own race was uneven. I settled into a fairly good form and pace for the first mile, but someone where in the second mile, I felt the lack of breakfast and slowed down. I did not ‘bonk’ as the marathon runners would say. I finished the race in decent time for me, but it brought home once again that so much of race performance depends on factors beyond training, including rest, fuel, and hydration.

Here are my results. They were middle of the pack, but reasonably good for me.

05152016 Great Bear Run Results

But what was interesting was the top performers. They lead a runner to wonder how fast can you get at any age. Take a look at the top five runners, their times, and their ages.

05152016 Great Bear Run Top 5

I ran cross country in high school *mumble* years ago, and was never anywhere near 16 minutes for a total time. Some of these guys are several dec—years older than me and way faster. This leads to three questions.


  1. Were these guys the ones running 16 minute 5-Ks back in high school? Have they always been this fast?
  2. Is there something special about them that makes them this fast or did they train up to it?
  3. How fast can a hobbyist runner train up to be?


Lately my training has been focused on just getting some miles in – about 3 a day or every other day. It may be time to return to more structure. I have a plan in mind, and sometimes I think the only limitations are where I put my energy. But if anyone out there has any secrets, I am all ears.

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