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Paula Radcliffe, the winner from England, ran at the young age of 34.

According to the New York Times, women are getting older… and better at sports.

Take for instance this past Sunday’s New York City Marathon, where 41 elite female athletes competed at the average age of 33.

These women were distributed a $301,000 purse, up from $165,000 just a decade ago.

Sunday marked the participation the oldest groups of elite women in the history of the race. Nearly half of the rest of the participants are 35 and older.

2/3 of the runners are 30 years or older including Paula Radcliffe, the winner from England, ran at the young age of 34.

Kara Goucher of the United States (30 years old) came in second, and became the first American woman on the podium since 1994.

Gete Wami of Berlin (33 years of age) finished close behind Goucher.

“It’s unusual to see so many really good women of that age, but this is probably a fluke that they are all so good at once,” Mary Wittenberg, the race director, said. “I do expect to see a changing of the guard because we are probably looking at the end of a superstar generation.”

Experts say that in the 30’s, distance runners are often at their “prime” because their bodies are used to the mileage required to train for the 26.2-mile race. (I can’t even imagine having to run that much. And I’m 23 years old.)

Kara Goucher of the United States came in second. She is 30 years old.

It’s important to note, however, that many of these women only started running marathons only after they had built a foundation in shorter races, to prevent burnout and injuries.

Something that is totally cool is that women are starting to earn more money in marathons.

According to the New York Times, the top five women in Sunday’s race have made at least $1 million in prize money in their careers. The top 10 winners will also receive prize money.

First place is worth $130,000 of the $301,000 purse, second place $65,000, third $40,000, fourth $25,000, fifth $15,000 and so on down to $1,000 for 10th place. In addition, bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $70,000 are paid for reaching certain time standards.

Twenty years ago, though, the total women’s purse in the New York City Marathon was $134,500, organizers said, and a decade ago, it was $165,000.

This is all very cool stuff. I’m glad to see women excelling at such a grueling sport as they enter the prime ages of their lives. And the increase in money over the years is very hopeful.

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Last night, according to ESPN, Dara Torres won the 50m freestyle heat with ease, finishing at the wall with a time of time of 24.27 – 0.15 better than anyone else.

Swimming is hard enough, especially the 50 meter freestyle. An all-out sprint, the 50m requires explosive power and speed, two traits that are supposed to dwindle over the years.

But Dara Torres is proving that wrong, and she’s catching a lot of attention because of her ability to overcome that inevitable obstacle that we all must face: age.  That, and – of course – guys think she’s hot.

Torres is making history – in more ways than one.

USA Today says,

“Dara Torres is doubling up her duties in her run at history on Sunday.”

This is because, in addition to seeking her 11th Olympic medal in the finals of the 50-meter freestyle, the 41-year-old mom will swim the anchor leg of the women’s 4×100 medley relay about 40 minutes later.

Winning two medals on Sunday would tie Torres with Jenny Thompson at 12 medals (Thompson represented the US in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics). If this happens, two stars would share the title of most decorated U.S. woman swimmer in history. Torres already is the oldest female swimmer in Olympic history.

But one of the greatest impacts Torres is having on our culture is that she is inspiring older women to get fit. Check out this article from The Huffington Post which explains how this is happening and why.

Also last night, Kirsty Coventry from  Zimbabwe grabbed a gold in the 200-meter back stroke, defeating Margaret Hoelzer’s previous world-record time.

In distance, Britain’s Rebecca Adlington clinched the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle event with a time of 8 minutes, 14.10 seconds, shattering Janet Evans’ 19-year-old world record of 8:16.22. It has been said that Adlington is the “Michael Phelps of Britain”, and is setting a said to be setting a precedent for the next summer games in London.

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Dara TorresIt has been studied and confirmed over and over again: age and gender each have a significant impact on the cardiac response to exercise. But for some reason, it doesn’t seem to apply to Dara Torres, a 41-year-old mother who is attempting to qualify for her fifth Olympic Games on June 29-July 6 at the USA Swimming Team Trials.

If Dara Torres qualifies for the Beijing Olympics, she will become the first swimmer to make five Olympic teams and will be the oldest female Olympic swimmer to date. She is truly the definition of the bionic woman, and serves as an inspiration to those who battle the inevitable obstacle of age.

To put this phenomenon into perspective, in 1984 (the year before I was born) Torres won her first Olympic gold medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. She was 14 years old. Here she is, today, still kicking butt.

Torres boggles the minds of exercise physiologists everywhere. Her physicality is remarkable for her age, and because of this, she receives regular and frequent drug tests to prove she is for real.

Her training regimen is different than the 17-year-olds she competes against. Wendy Lewellen from the Women’s Sports Foundation says,

“She takes Thursdays and Sundays off from her typical 7-2:30 work-outs, and she plays close attention to her diet. At 5’11”, she’s 10 pounds lighter than she was in 2000. I expected to encounter in Torres a living nutritional chemistry experiment. But aside from relying heavily on her Living Fuel shakes and bars in the early part of the day, her diet sounds simply sensible.”

What makes a professional athlete a true champion? In my opinion, it’s how they use their image and voice to make an impact on society.

Torees does just that. She has used her influence to raise awareness around health issues that have touched her life. Toyota sponsors her effort to spotlight eating disorders, which is a very large problem in the community of female athletes.

I’d like to wish Dara Torres the best of luck as she takes to the lanes June 29-July 6 in Omaha, Neb. For more information on the event, go to USASwimming.org.

To get an even better understanding of how amazing her story has become, check out the below ABC “Person of the Week” video.

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