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73-Year-Old Gene Dykes Runs an Age Group World Record in the 50K

Runner’s World logo Runner’s World 6/14/2021 Sarah Lorge Butler
a person posing for the camera: He averaged a 7:37/mile pace for more than 31 miles. © Courtesy Gene Dykes He averaged a 7:37/mile pace for more than 31 miles.
  • Gene Dykes, 73, set an age group world record for the 50K on June 13 at the USATF 50K Road Championships in East Islip, New York, finishing in 3:56:43—a 7:37/mile pace.
  • Just five weeks ago, Dykes ran the Cocodona 250, which is “250ish” miles, in Arizona. After that, he ran some longer workouts to prepare for the 50K record attempt.
  • Next up, Dykes will run the Mohican 100-miler in Ohio on June 19.

Gene Dykes, the 73-year-old masters champion from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, set an age group world record in the 50K (31.06 miles) on June 13 at the USATF 50K Road Championships in East Islip, New York.

Dykes finished in 3:56:43, averaging 7:37 per mile for the distance. He bettered the previous age group world record (4:15:55, run by Wilhelm Hofmann of Germany in 1997), by more than 19 minutes.

“It was the first time I’ve run a 3:20 marathon and still had five miles to go,” Dykes told Runner’s World after the race.

“It’s good to see I haven’t gotten old,” he quipped.

The race was run on a 5K loop in Heckscher State Park, and Dykes saved something for his 10th and final lap, running 22:27 (7:14 pace) for that 5K. He said several spectators recognized him and yelled encouragement throughout the event.

Dykes regularly runs ultramarathons, and then he crams a few weeks of marathon-type training in before he attempts records. Five weeks ago, he ran the Cocodona 250, which bills itself as “250ish” miles, in Arizona.

Then he went home to Pennsylvania and his coach gave him a series of long workouts, like an 8-mile progression run, starting at 7:50/mile pace and getting down to 7:10 pace, as part of a 13-mile day. Another was 22 miles with 20 x 2 minutes at 6:40./mile pace.

In 2019, at age 70, Dykes ran the Jacksonville Marathon in 2:54:23. It appeared he had broken the world age group record, 2:54:48, run by famed Canadian masters runner Ed Whitlock. But the course in Jacksonville was certified, but not sanctioned, so Dykes’s record was not recognized.

He took no such chances with the 50K record. Because he ran it in an official USATF event, the record will stand.

But Dykes said there’s one good reason he’s the record-holder now.

“Ed Whitlock never ran a 50K,” he said.

Next up: Dykes will run the Mohican 100-miler in Ohio on June 19. He’s hoping to run well enough to be able to enter the lottery for next year’s Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

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