Yale University

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Peter Jokl '64: We're not getting older, we're getting better

Age Matters

from the Yale Alumni Magazine, Nov/Dec, 2004

There was a time when Peter JokI '64, '68MD, could run fast. Exceptionally fast. Joki ran a leg on a mile relay team that set a Yale record, and he typically finished the 440-yard dash in a then very respectable time of 49 seconds.

"If I could run twice that time now I'd be happy," says the professor of orthopedics. But he has some consolation. In August's British Journal of Sports Medicine, Joki reports that as a group, the swiftest men and women over the age of 50 at the New York City Marathon have been improving at a much faster rate than their younger counterparts.

Joki and medical school colleagues Paul Sethi and Andrew Cooper looked at the running time, age, and gender of all runners in every NYC Marathon from 1983 through 1999 ― some 415,000 marathoners who made it to the finish line. They also examined the times of the top 50 male and female finishers by age category. The top 50 finishers aged 20 to 30 did not significantly improve their times. But the top 50 finishers over 50, particularly the women, have sped up dramatically over the years. JokI credits the improvement to an increasingly active older population ― again, especially women ― and a changing attitude toward aging.

"We're not going to have an 80-year-old win the marathon," he says, "but we need to be aware that aging is not necessarily associated with disability. Many older adults have the potential to be really good runners." Joki himself recently started his own comeback, in the division for athletes over 60.