Running over 40 pays health dividends irregardless of your pace.
Your running pace -- the number of minutes it takes you to run 1 mile -- can change as you get older. Other factors, such as your general health, age, chronic conditions such as arthritis, the distance you're running and your degree of fitness can also impact your pace. When you are a woman over 40 trying to improve your running pace, increase your speed and distance slowly and try not to compare yourself to other runners. What one person considers a good pace might be unacceptably slow to another runner.
Age, Sex and Running
Women run around 10 percent slower than men, on average, due to lower testosterone levels and less muscle mass, according to a 2008 "Time" article. And both women and men run more slowly as they get older. Muscle strength declines in a linear fashion up to around age 70, when it falls precipitously, especially in running, according to a study in the 2004 issue of the "British Journal of Sports Medicine."
Age grading gives older adults a more level playing field in races. Age grading compares your time to others of your age and sex, not to the elite 20-somethings starting at the front of the line. For example, at age 50, your 9.42 minute per mile would be equivalent to an 8.2 minute per mile pace and a spot in the 50th percentile against runners overall, according to tables created by Professor Rodney Pearson of Mississippi State University.
Age-Graded Women's Paces
According to Professor Pearson's tables, a woman of 40 falls into the 50th percentile of runners in her age group if she maintains a 1-mile pace of 9 minutes. A woman at age 50 would fall into the 50th percent of her age group if she ran a 9.42 mile pace. By age 60, maintaining a 10.45 pace would keep her in the 50th percentile, while by age 70, she would earn the same place at a 12.12 pace.
Don't beat yourself up if you can't meet the average running pace for your age. As long as you are enjoying yourself, not injuring yourself and meeting fitness goals, your running pace is good -- for you. In most cases, you will get faster as you become a more accomplished runner. And staying active -- which only 20 to 30 percent of all adults do, according to a 2004 "British Journal of Sports Medicine" article -- can increase your lifespan by up to two years and decrease mortality up to 25 percent.