There seems to be a steady progression of lost driving distance that comes with age, but I don’t recall ever seeing much actual information on the topic. My curiosity got the best of me, so one day I sat down and tried to figure it out.

I started by looking up the ages and driving distances of 440 players on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, Champions Tour, European Tour and European Senior Tour.

Here’s a breakdown of the averages I found in five-year increments, along with a calculation of their estimated average swing speeds based on the average Tour players driving distance efficiency being about 2.57 yard/mph.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.16.58 PM

If I break down the numbers in 10-year increments to decades, here’s what I found.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.17.28 PM

As expected, we see a decline in distance and club head speed over time. Below are a few points of interest.

  • Pros in their 20’s, and more specifically in their late 20’s, hit the longest drives and swing the fastest.
  • Pros on the main tours (i.e. non-senior tours) in their 30’s are around the tour average in both categories, meaning the guys in their 20s boost both averages and guys in their 40’s bring down the averages.
  • There’s a really sharp decline in speed and distance around age 50. I wonder if there is something psychological at play here. As soon as golfers turn 50 and start playing the “senior” tours, they could start thinking of themselves as older and it could manifest in their play. Who knows.

Since the lowest club head speed for a competitive player on a tour for a player under 50 years old is usually around 104 mph, it makes sense that we don’t see as many guys in their 50s or 60s being competitive on the main tours. But does it have to be like that?

Trackman research shows that when a golfer goes from a 15 handicap to a +5 handicap, there is a correlation of about 1:1 of club head speed to handicap. That means that for every 1 mph increase in clubhead speed, you’ll see about a 1-shot drop in handicap. I suppose that it’s not too far of a stretch to say that as tour players lose club head speed and distance, it becomes more difficult for them to shoot lower scores and be competitive at the highest levels.

Still, there is only about a 10 mph club head speed difference between the guys in the 60-to-69 age category and the main tour average of about 113 mph. In my work as a Swing Speed Trainer, I can definitely tell you it’s possible to add 10 mph of speed to swing through swing speed training. Furthermore, I believe that age is largely a state of mind and if you are willing to put in some work, a great deal of physical capability can be maintained and even increased well in to the latter parts of life. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Related: Three ways to add distance to your drives

The video below of Sam Bright, Jr. is a fine example. It stands to reason that if a senior tour player in his 50s or 60s is still motivated and interested in playing one of the main tours, he could certainly do so with Swing Speed Training.

[youtube id=”iU4yAZobbfI” width=”620″ height=”360″]

Assuming the same regression happens at the amateur level, here’s what those numbers might look like for 14-to-15 handicappers who swing 93.4 mph and hit drives 214 yards when they’re 30-to-39. It could then be said that maintaining this handicap level could also become difficult with age.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.22.05 PM

To help combat potential distance and handicap loss with age, I refer you to another article I wrote called “Three ways to longer drives.” As George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

I say to you, get out there and play!

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS.

Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27.

He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs.

The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training.

You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here:

Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com;
Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons;
Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf;
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60 COMMENTS

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  1. In 2004, at 61 years old, I won my regional ReMax World Long Drive championship at 355 yards at Riverside in Indianapolis with a clubhead speed of 127 mph. I’m a physicist, and found that efficient long drive swings used both torso rotation and whole-body bending around, most typically, the solar plexus to swing the arms. Both motions generate speed without significant movement of the center of gravity of the body, but like a platform diver, or a falling cat, generate useful motion around the CG. I swung an SMT head on an Accuflex shaft… long-drive specialties. Fast-forward to today, at 74. i just started to play again after illness and am 25 pounds lighter. Clubhead speed is 112 with that same old driver and distance is about 280. With a more appropriate and modern driver and work on flexibility, 300 will come. Injury is the biggest distance loser, and tour pros are most vulnerable. Leading knee twist and lumbar vertebral damage are the result of powerful swings done for decades. My advice: learn to let your forward foot rotate (there is a special golf shoe that does it automatically) on the ground on your all-out drives, and use more lateral bend ( see Mike Dunaway’s DVD) and a little less pure torsion. It makes a big difference. I agree about low T and fast twitch muscles, but injuries are the biggest swing killers.

  2. I am 76 & I took up golf at 60 by error. With a young family, it was important to bond with them while they were growing up. After my doctor recommended an operation to relieve my back pain, I went to our local driving range, every day for 18 moths. I would hit between 450-500 balls a day. I had blisters, bleeding hands and tore muscles in my back, till I thought I was going to have a heart attack. The golf pro called me a machine gun. Then one day, the Manager came over and said, “Could I please stop hitting over the safety net at the back as you are hitting the homes behind it”. My severe back pain stopped & I realized, I might be able to play golf.
    Now at age 76 I still drive 227 metres. My back pain with regular & moderate exercise every day, Has gone. I have had 3 golf lessons, for a right hander. Which did not help, as being a left hander. However for reason, I play right handed golf. Having read, Ben Hogan’s book on golf has helped heaps.
    Thanks for golf. the exercise & and cameraderie with my golf friends of same age..

    That is when I started to realize .over wanted to operate on my spend time with them In m in th

  3. Great article.

    At the 1988 PGA at Oaktree in Edmond Oklahoma, I was 33 years old. I had Contestant’s Family badges as I used to work for a club pro that had played his way into the tournament that year. Those badges gave me access to a PGA Tour operated hitting cage that could measure clubhead speed. I used a persimmon driver with a steel shaft that was provided by the PGA rep (Remember, the first titanium driver, the Big Bertha, didn’t hit the market until 1991). On a dozen swings, I averaged around 112 mph. One swing was 118 mph. The operator told me that my clubhead speed was in the top half of PGA pros. This didn’t really surprise me because at 33 years old, I was 6′ 1″ and a strong and limber 175 pounds. I was lucky enough to live a mile from the golf course and I started playing golf almost every day from the age of 12. I played to a four handicap, hit short irons into all the par fours, and was rarely out-driven.

    Fast forward to 2015 and I am now 60 years old, 210 pounds, can’t touch my toes, and I rarely hit wedges to par fours anymore. My Clubhead speed now is in the 98-102 mph range and that’s with a titanium driver and the graphite shaft. I have one video of me swinging when I was 17 years old and I had just won a junior tournament. I compare that video to my current swing and all I can say is that I’m now watching a fat old man swing that appears to have nothing correct in his swing anymore.

    I showed my young swing to the PGA pro at the club I belong to and he commented “nice swing, is that you?” He then agreed with me that until I lose 20 pounds and gain back some flexibility, my distance is just going to continue to drop. So, all I can say is that this article is spot on. Flexibility is the key to distance, not stength. If it was strength, Arnold Schwarzenegger would hit a ball 500 yards.

  4. UPDATE: The GM at the course I play the most, laughed at me & explained that playing that much golf tears the little muscles in your shoulders akin to lifting weights. He said “Dude give your body a rest & you’ll be fine”. Turns out he was correct. Distance numbers on the course are more in line with what I’m used to.

  5. Turn 78 this yr [2015] 20 yrs ago played off 3. Now with rotator cuff injury + loss of prostate [less test.] have gone down to 200 yd max drive with roll. Struggling to stay close to 80 on 72 par course.
    good putting and chipping is my only chance to stay in the game. Putting stats = 28 putts / round.
    Swing speed is 85 but playing on kike grass courses well watered have taken its toll on length. Give me the good old days with no course watering [like they still do in UK] and couch fairways. I call course watering of golf course the American disease.

  6. Significant drop off from 20s to 40s, while commonplace, is certainly not inevitable. I’ve followed the same (aggressive) workout regimen and level of activity throughout, and my club head speed at 46 (115 mph average, 116 max) is essentially the same as it was at 26 (115, 117 max). I’m average height and weight at 5’10”, 165#, btw. It’s all about putting in the fitness work.

  7. Interesting article. I had not seen any attempt at this analysis before, although I have wondered about what to expect with age. After a several decades-long hiatus from golf, I started playing again at age 60, so don’t know how my distance changed over time. But I am longer now at 74 than I was as a college player (where I was not particularly long – or even straight) – and that has to be the gains in technology. I may have lost a few yards over this last decade, but not a lot. With a smooth tempo 90-94 mph driver speed, a center-hit still makes me pretty long for my age-group. (And my sense is that center-of-the-club-face is more important to distance then a few mph speed-gain if off-center.) All other things being equal, the 2+ yds per mph off the driver is a good measure to keep in mind – but center-hits are still key. My index is about 4.

    • If you’re hitting the middle of the club face, the new technology does very little. There’s a lot of “data” out there designed to sell clubs, but the fact is average driving distance on the pro level has only increased by ~20 yards (probably less) in the last 30 years, and most of that is due to the ball. The increase seen from amateurs is usually due to matching a more forgiving club to someone who makes poor or inconsistent contact. I play to an 8 or 9 and I still get a kick out of 20+ handicappers that believe they have a solid grasp on their driver distance. If they told me “I hit the ball between 190 and 250.” I’d believe that. Most will tell you they hit it “Ya know 270 on a good day…”, and that means one day in a simulator they hit that number one time-ever. Now it’s their “average”.

  8. I believe that in order for this to hold true with regards to losing distance with age, the golfer must then use the same golf club for the entirety of his golf career. In seeing golfers actually adding distance is more to advancement in technology that has helped. So as a result you are finding those who have aged also picking up yardage. Now if they were to stick with the persimmon or steel head drivers of the past then I would be in total agreement. As for now, with lighter shafts that launch lower with a better launch angle, who knows, we might actually see another slight increase in distance in relation to age.

  9. I’m almost 61 and have not lost much distance since the age of 50. What I do everyday is swing a 5lb. golf club 50 times a day. You would be surprised how much that helps with distance, strength and flexability.

    • I will be 61 in a few months, 5’2″ 120lbs. single digit golfer. Still very flexible. 5yrs ago: 101mph ss, 3yrs ago: 98mph ss. Just came from Dick’s for a regripping (played about 80 rounds 2014). While waiting used monitor (the real one, little metal box)> Was bummed. Avg. ss 90mph, carry distance 206, total 232 yds. Did hit a few 93-95mph 228 carry 250 total yds. Only a few years ago was 238 carry(max) 262total yds. 4/13/15 (mon.) played 40holes next day 26holes (riding). 4/15/15 went to Dick’s. Could fatigue have played a role? I stopped playing ice hockey (laced em up 6 times in the past year). Any thoughts, I’m bummed!

  10. Advice for all you aging older players- spend 80% of your practice time chipping and putting…..the great equalizer. Injuries will take their toll on you hitting too many range balls so shadow swing slow at home instead making the correct moves…you’ll be amazed how much more connected and better contact you will make on course without the wear and tear of whacking balls. I love hitting balls and practice honestly but the joints take a beating hitting 100-200 balls. Be smart about your body.

  11. These numbers are for regular old people that have given into the low T BS! Now days people are in better shape and have healthy active lifestyles that enable them to retain both strength and flexibility. I will be 60 in April and while I hit it about 240 in my competitive 20’s (persimmon and balata), and with the new equipment, I hit it 250-280 now. My friends who are 50-60 all hit it past me so I agree with Gary Player- it’s about moving, staying active and eating correctly. FYI- We all walk most rounds while the fat boys are riding the carts drinking their beer. That’s the difference.

  12. Something seems drastically wrong with some of these comments. I’m 65, I’ve played for 50 years. I was never a long hitter. In the persimmon era, 225 (carry and roll) was my standard. Today, at 65, I use a highly accurate radar unit, average about 97 mph and occasionally reach a legitimate 100. I have no question my clubhead speed at 65 is higher than it was at 40, and it’s not because I’m a walking miracle. I suppose 1 mph lost for every year after 50 might be true if you also get fatter, weaker and lazier every year after 50 too.

  13. things just go downhill when you turn 40. I better start my excercise routine like Gary Player otherwise I see no tomorrow. Maybe my Orange Whip will help me maintaining or gaining the extra MPH. However I think that length is not everything. you become a refined player with age just like good wine.

  14. Getting old simply “sucks.” In two months I’ll turn 65. At 63 I spent the summer fighting a kidney stone for two months ending in surgery. I only played three rounds the entire summer and they were all in May. The following summer I was astonished at how much eye-hand coordination I had lost. I suddenly couldn’t hit my Mizuno MP-32’s with any consistency and my 7-iron which was automatically dialed in at 150 yards was playing at least 10 yards shorter. Even my wedges were coming up short by at least a club. I don’t even want to talk about driver distance fading away.
    My wife did buy me a new set of Titleist AP1’s as well as Ping G25 driver, 5-wood and 20 and 23-degree hybrids. I struggled through most of last summer getting used to my new game, but still enjoyed playing. My drives now average about 220. My longest drive in early September was 240, but that was a perfectly struck ball. And I am forgetting to mention that I now play optic yellow balls because I truly can’t see white balls any more (thanks to 20 years of staring at computer monitors for 12 hours a day).
    I still love the game immensely and have found the Ping metals are keeping me in the fairway consistently. I also rely much more on my short game, especially putting, to keep me in the mid-80’s. And the young pups I play with, who are still in their 50’s, still demand that I play from the blues with them. I simply hit a lot more hybrids and 5-woods into the long Par-3’s now.
    The same thing will likely happen to most of you reading this right now. You’ll get discouraged at first, learn to accept it and finally, if you truly love this great game as I do, you’ll adapt to reality and change your game and expectations so that you still love playing and practicing all summer long. As an old hockey player, golf is still the best game ever invented.

    • The worst thing is when wifes start to buy improvement clubs for you. Length can only maintained through practice so no wonder you were short after short after a serious heath break.

  15. It’s been my experience being a professional fitter for over 20 years that just about EVERYONE starts losing clubhead speed at the rate of 1mph per year at age 50. It’s just part of the natural slowing down process in everything we do. It’s a gradual process that is imperceptible in the short term, but the cumulative effect is great. As we age, we talk slower, we walk slower, we chew slower, we swing slower. And while 1mph doesn’t seem like a lot, 15 years down the road the cumulative effect is 15mph and a loss of 35-45 yards with a driver and 20-30 with an iron. Combined together, the second shot PW of yesteryear is now a 4-5 iron. In 20 years of watching my clientele age I’ve had ONE 68 year-old golfer who has maintained his clubhead speed and ONE 72 year-old golfer who actually gained 4mph. Everyone else has decayed at 1mph per year once over 50. Add in the effects of not-so-good impact conditions and misfit clubs and the yardage “rollback” can be severe enough to discourage the staunchest curmudgeon from playing as much as they’d desire. Unfortunately, for most folks that just the way it is and without significant dedication to strength and flexibility training and lessons they will never recapture the speed of their glory days.

    • I’LL BE 80 IN JULY AND HIT MY DRIVES 210-220 REGULARLY AND A 4 IRON IS MY 175 YD CLUB. MOST OF THE GUYS MY AGE CAN’T COME CLOSE TO ME BUT THE YOUNG STUDS FLY THEIR 7 IRONS PAST MY 4 IRON. IS THERE ANY REAL WAY I CAN RESUME MY YOUNGER DAYS PERFORMANCE, WHERE I WAS 30-40 YARDS LONGER?? I PLAY 5 DAYS A WEEK 52 WEEKS A YEAR. LIVE IN SOUTH FLORIDA. NO STEROIDS, PLEASE…….

    • I think your comment “Combined together, the second shot PW of yesterday is now a 4-5 iron.” to be totally accurate. The data Jacob Bowden sites from the various tours is taken from the records of the best players in the world. Stronger lofts, longer clubs, more forgiving heads and wonderful balls have enabled older players to retain some of that lost distance. Those that disagree should get access to a Trackman and see what really is happening. There are a few lucky people with unusual genes that don’t lose speed. A very, very few lucky people…

  16. We used to say, we lost 10 yards every 10 years! But that was with the old equipment before the giant headed drivers and super-duper balls came into play.
    Amazing what technology can give us now.

  17. I remember as a kid we would take our top hand pinky off the grip and rest it on the butt. Essentially making the club longer. Hit it farther lose some accuracy. It does work try it. Never heard anyone mention it, but was common practice when I was young

  18. I still hit long drives at age 44. To me the biggest factors as we age would be how well we have taken care of our backs (or if we have sustained a back injury during our life) and maintaining flexibility as we age. Additionally, since some studies indicate that many men experience drops in testosterone levels as they age that may also be a contributing factor to loss in clubhead speed due to muscle atrophy and loss of overall strength.

  19. A wonderful article. At 71 I can still swing a 44.5″ driver 96 to 100 mph. At 49 I could swing a 43.5″ Dynamic shafted persimmon driver 106 to 110 mph and thought about trying to play on the senior tour. I blamed the loss of speed as I aged to injury and drugs related to cancer. The answer is much more simple. As ‘Archie Bunker’ suggests, the answer is going forward and for club events, to have more divisions in tournaments by age. And maybe we’d get more older players to continue to play competitive golf. Trying to play against 30 year old players who are hitting six clubs less at greens makes for a long day.

    • Tom, I’m not saying that people don’t lose distance with age (I know I have) but since when has age and how far you hit have anything to do with what your score is? I play golf with a guy who is 10 years older than me (he’s early 50’s and I’m early 40’s) and he doesn’t come anywhere near me with the driver. His handicap is 3-4 shots less than mine and most weeks he would run rings around me because he manages HIS own game so well. He doesn’t hit the ball as well as me but he plays better golf. This is the essence of our game, not making sure I’m hitting it as far as the bloke I’m playing with. Golf is about the score, not now far you hit it.

        • Maybe, but you don’t win just because of your length. If the rest of your game is not in shape, length means nothing. If you can’t putt or manage your game, it doesn’t matter how far you hit it. Just ask Nicholas Colsarts or Alvaro Quiros. Very long bombers but not winning at the moment.

          • Although some of your points are well taken the fact remains that all other things being equal (short game, putting, fundamentals remaining intact)if you lose 15%-20% of your distance as you age that driver wedge combo on that 320yds opening hole becomes driver/7 iron and it gets worse as the holes get longer. And forget going for any par 5 in two.

      • I agree that length isn’t the only thing. But, increasingly on the various tours, you see that the consistent money winners rank high on distance. You also see extremely good players try to make swing changes for more distance – Luke Donald certainly comes to mind. The story from 70 years ago about Sam Snead playing Paul Runyon in a PGA match play championship where Snead outhit Runyon by 50 yards but still lost supports your position. But Runyon’s are invisible today at all tour levels. As Christian says, all else being equal, the longer player wins.

        • Fair enough but when is all else equal? Hardly ever if at all. I don’t understand this fascination, wait, infatuation people have with distance. Your point (along with Christians) might be more relevant on tour but in our world of social golf and club competitions, it means diddly squat. I guess I don’t think of tour pros as being relevant to me and the way I play (except for the entertainment of watching them play) because they play a game of golf that is unrecognisable to me. They are another universe.

  20. I just bought into Jaacobs speed swinging program and I am noticing a difference and its only been a week. Should get go 110MPH this month. Maybe more. Just hit 4 of my longest drives ever. Measured, 284,284,286,286. Goal is 310 a month from now. Want to average 290 or better.

  21. Turned 58 two days before Thanksgiving. SS has dropped from 112-114 to 104-109 or so. Still can hit the ball very well off the tee and last week hit a couple approaching 300. No doubt I’ve slowed but can still keep up with many guys younger than me. Started a new workout regimen on my birthday and am getting stronger, more flexible, etc.

  22. I love it when the young (read: less than 50) make statements about what the old can accomplish with more stretching and strengthening. I have yet to see any data that suggest that stretching and strengthening have any more beneficial effects for older golfers than for younger golfers.

  23. Is this another one of those foolish ideas brought on by Monty’s fallacies and misconceptions on the golf swing ? He is so far off in right field that dude

  24. Well you guys who are middle aged body builders are impressive.

    I’m a middle aged 51 year old with bad knees and have gone from 105-108 in my 20’s and 30’s to low 90’s at 51.

    A little over 10% drop in club head speed, but I make much better contact now with big drivers etc.

    I suspect the article is correct, my knees would make me about 65 in dog years.

  25. I got into weight lifting at the age of 36. Been doing it about 3-4 times a week and at the age of 50 I am much stronger now than when I was in my 20’s. I still swing around 110. Sam’s right. Age is just a number to a certain degree and it is what you make of it.

  26. I hit the ball much further at 46 than I did at 30 – and I’ve played golf since I was 18.

    It’s all about health. My buddy is 61 years old and a 6’2″ lean workout freak. Runs and lifts regularly. He hits the ball a mile. He hits it further now than he did in his 40’s. We’ve had this conversation.

  27. What about the introduction of 460cc drivers and multi layer golf balls?
    Champions Tour players such as Fred Couples, Kenny Perry, Billy Andrade, etc were 20 yards longer in 2014 than they were in 1994.
    Does the new technology more than make up for losing 10 mph of club head speed?

    • Well, the thing is that although the Senior Tour players are benefiting from technology, the regular PGA TOUR players are too.

      In comparing 1994 to 2014, the PGA TOUR player mean went up 27.9 yards from 261.8 to 289.7 (about 10.7%) and the Senior Tour players went up 18.3 yards from 254.6 to 272.9 (about 7.1%).

      So for whatever reason it seems Senior Tour players as a whole are more worse off now than they were before despite the improvements in technology. Interesting.

      • Thanks for replaying, Jacob.

        1994 PGA Tour players and 2014 PGA Tour players are (for the most) different cohorts.

        If you’re talking about how much distance a player lose with age, then I think you need to look at the SAME players over time, not different players over time.

        A 34 year old Fred Couples averaged 279.9 yds while 54 year old Fred Couples averaged 295.0.
        A 33 year old Kenny Perry averaged 264.9 yds, while 53 year old Kenny Perry averaged 289.4.
        A 30 year old Billy Andrade averaged 258.3 yds, while 50 year old Billy Andrade averaged 282.6.

        I don’t think these three players are the anomalies either. I would say that the vast majority of current Champions Tour players are at least 15 yards longer than they were 20 years ago. Clearly these guys have not lost distance with age.

  28. At 45, I can’t just roll out of bed and expect to play decent golf. You definitely have to put in work to “maintain” and any strokes that I gain from here on out are going to be through efficiency as opposed to power.

  29. Myself, I am going in the opposite direction as I approach 50. A few years ago I was closer to mid 90’s and now I am approaching 115+ as my technique, flexibility, weight, and muscle strength all improve. Lucky I guess that I took a 30 year break from golf and sports after I hurt myself when quite young and haven’t had any recent injuries.

  30. It’s called Manopause, LOL. There is a sharp decrease in test production once a male hits 40. No test means no strength. No strength equals sharp decline in swing speed. I was doing long drive comps in Japan when I was in my mid 20’s. Swing speed was 133mph. I still workout and have a bodybuilding backround, but injuries and age have taken it’s toll. I can still swing 122mph, but it gets harder to maintain every year.

    • It is not just testosterone. Fast twitch muscles at the bottom of the shoulder blade create ~80% of club speed. Flexibility and turn maintain speed, not create it. Fast twitch muscles age more rapidly than slow twitch, the reason why dash runners deteriorate more quickly than distance runners.

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