This study examined changes according to age group in the number of finishers and running times for athletes in female and male mountain ultramarathoners competing in the 78 km Swiss Alpine Marathon, the largest mountain ultramarathon in Europe and held in high alpine terrain.
The association between age and performance was investigated using analysis of variance and both single and multilevel regression analyses.
Between 1998 and 2011, a total of 1,781 women and 12,198 men finished the Swiss Alpine Marathon. The number of female finishers increased (r2 = 0.64, P = 0.001), whereas the number of male finishers (r2 = 0.18, P = 0.15) showed no change. The annual top ten men became older and slower, whereas the annual top ten women became older but not slower. Regarding the number of finishers in the age groups, the number of female finishers decreased in the age group 18–24 years, whereas the number of finishers increased in the age groups 30–34, 40–44, 45–49, 50–54, 55–59, 60–64, and 70–74 years. In the age groups 25–29 and 35–39 years, the number of finishers showed no changes across the years. In the age group 70–74 years, the increase in number of finishers was linear. For all other age groups, the increase was exponential. For men, the number of finishers decreased in the age groups 18–24, 25–29, 30–34, and 35–39 years. In the age groups 40–44, 45–49, 50–54, 55–59, 60–64, 70–74, and 75–79 years, the number of finishers increased. In the age group 40–44 years, the increase was linear. For all other age groups, the increase was exponential. Female finishers in the age group 40–44 years became faster over time. For men, finishers in the age groups 18–24, 25–29, 30–34, 40–44, and 45–49 years became slower.
The number of women older than 30 years and men older than 40 years increased in the Swiss Alpine Marathon. Performance improved in women aged 40–44 years but decreased in male runners aged 18–49 years.