The performance and age of peak ultra-endurance performance have been investigated in single races and single race series but not using worldwide participation data. The purpose of this study was to examine the changes in running performance and the age of peak running performance of the best 100-mile ultra-marathoners worldwide.
The race times and ages of the annual ten fastest women and men were analyzed among a total of 35,956 finishes (6,862 for women and 29,094 for men) competing between 1998 and 2011 in 100-mile ultra-marathons.
The annual top ten performances improved by 13.7% from 1,132±61.8 min in 1998 to 977.6±77.1 min in 2011 for women and by 14.5% from 959.2±36.4 min in 1998 to 820.6±25.7 min in 2011 for men. The mean ages of the annual top ten fastest runners were 39.2±6.2 years for women and 37.2±6.1 years for men. The age of peak running performance was not different between women and men (p>0.05) and showed no changes across the years.
These findings indicated that the fastest female and male 100-mile ultra-marathoners improved their race time by ∼14% across the 1998–2011 period at an age when they had to be classified as master athletes. Future studies should analyze longer running distances (>200 km) to investigate whether the age of peak performance increases with increased distance in ultra-marathon running.