72-year-old former sprinter runs down purse thief

From the U.K. comes a story with vaguely Onion-esque undertones. Jean Hirst, who was the Nottinghamshire County Schools 100-yard-dash champion during the Eisenhower administration, had her handbag snatched by one in a trio of teenage girls and proceeded to catch the culprit.
As a track and field aficionado I took particular interest in this part:

“She had a head start but I covered 70 yards in about 15 seconds and was within two strides of her when she looked over her shoulder and saw me.
“She probably thought I was an easy target but she shouldn’t have judged a book by its cover. The look on her face was one of sheer amazement and she just threw my bag aside.”

I realize that Mrs. Hirst was only guessing at her speed, but there’s a good chance she was underestimating it. 70 yards in 15 seconds translates to a 100-meter dash in about 23 seconds. That’s well off the 70-to-74 age-group world record (15.16 seconds) for women, and over 30 percent slower than the 35th-best mark ever.
More importantly, it’s unlikely that even a thief supremely confident in her target’s infirmity would grab a purse on foot if incapable of holding 6:00-per-mile pace for at least half a minute or so. Even an untrained, somewhat out-of-shape teenage girl should be able to knock out 100 meters in 20 seconds.
We need video analysis, dammit.

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  1. #1 by Markk on February 14, 2009 - 11:03 pm

    I wonder what the age group records for people over 70 look like over time? For say 100M 800M and 1600M. I would guess they are still getting a lot faster but are they flattening out yet? I would think the number of participants is growing so they still should be coming down. I see over 70’s at all the major road races in Wisconsin now. At least a couple anyway.

  2. #2 by Markk on February 14, 2009 - 11:03 pm

    I wonder what the age group records for people over 70 look like over time? For say 100M 800M and 1600M. I would guess they are still getting a lot faster but are they flattening out yet? I would think the number of participants is growing so they still should be coming down. I see over 70’s at all the major road races in Wisconsin now. At least a couple anyway.

  3. #3 by Kevin Beck on February 14, 2009 - 11:34 pm

    You can (implicitly) check out the progression of various records from 100m through 10,000m by going here.
    One thing that stands out is that the marks at longer distances show less of a percentile decline with age than the times in the sprints do. This is to be expected–speed (related to power) crashes far sooner than endurance. In the absence of drugs you wouldn’t see a lot of world-class sprinters persisting past their twenties, whereas marathon runners tend to enjoy their prime years in their early to mid-thirties.

  4. #4 by zombie_bot on February 15, 2009 - 7:19 am

    you are aware that the telegraph and the dailymail are the biggest liars out of all the newspapers in the uk and probably the world?
    they literally make stories up.

  5. #5 by Jim Fiore on February 15, 2009 - 8:44 am

    OTOH, if these young women are anything like many of the young women I see on our college campus, I’d be surprised if they could run 100 meters in 60 seconds.

  6. #6 by Julie on February 15, 2009 - 9:09 am

    you are aware that the telegraph and the dailymail are the biggest liars out of all the newspapers in the uk and probably the world?
    That’s what a lot of people said when the photo of Phelps with a bong appeared in the News of the World…

  7. #7 by Clear heels with goldfish on February 18, 2009 - 1:24 pm

    I suspect footwear played a role. In platforms, clogs, Croks or even Uggs, a trained, in-shape girl would lose to an old sprinter. In my peer group, ladies of a certain age, white leather Reeboks are wildly popular.

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