Women runners who became national caliber after age 40
Utzschneider, Catharine V.K.
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This study analyzed the phenomenon of female runners who gained national caliber status after the age of 40. The study focused on 50 national caliber masters runners who started running competitively after age 30 and compared them with 53 such runners who started running competitively when young. Quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. These methods included questionnaires distributed in paper form and through a website, open-ended interviews, field notes, and a strong component of participant observation. Results show that these late-starting female competitors are similar to those who started competing at an early age except for the fact that they lacked support for athletics when young. Otherwise the following similarities were found between both groups. They are achievers balancing families, children, and careers. Both groups started running initially for health and fitness. Ambition subsequently motivated them to compete on a national level. The main obstacle, however, was too many responsibilities. A web of factors contributed to their success. These factors are goal setting, speed training, consistent running over many years, coaching, the support of family and teammates, belief in natural talent, and moderation in training. In spite of injuries, both groups of women perceive that the effects of running are overwhelmingly positive and that the effects extend to their careers and personal lives. These women feel optimistic about aging. They have experienced positive and negative reactions from others. In summary, as women masters runners, late starters can be just as successful as early starters.
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