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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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The Women’s Sports Foundation is holding a poll/contest on their Web site to select two champion athletes (one team, one individual) for their Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Award winners will be announced on October 14, 2008, and honored at the Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Cast your vote by midnight, September 2, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win one of five items autographed by your favorite sportswomen.

The nominees for the “team” category are:
– Patty Cisneros
– Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova
– Sandra Kiriasis
– Jessica Mendoza
– Hannah Nielsen
– Candace Parker
– Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh
– Marta Vieira da Silva
– Hayley Wickenheiser
– Venus and Serena Williams

The nominees for the “individual” category are:
– Mao Asada
– Veronica Campbell-Brown
– Natalie Coughlin
-Ashley Fiolek
– Allison Fisher
– Yelena Isinbayeva
– Nastia Liukin
– Lorena Ochoa
– Lindsey Vonn
– Rebecca Ward

I guess I’m a fan of the Olympics (or that’s what’s on the top of my mind) because I voted for Misty-May Treanor for the “team” category and Nastia Liukin for the “individual” category. I know the contest is based on more than just Olympic performances, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I encourage everyone to vote!!!

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