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90-year-old Italian man breaks marathon age-group world record

Antonio Rao of Rome ran an astonishing six-hour marathon to break the previous M90+ world record by 30 minutes

Antonio Rao Photo by: Sportograf

If you need a little inspiration today, meet 90-year-old marathoner Antonio Rao, from Rome. At the 2023 Rome Marathon on March 19, Rao became the fastest 90+ man in history, finishing the marathon in six hours and 14 minutes to break the M90 world record by a staggering 30 minutes. 

Living to age 90 is amazing on its own, but Rao is pushing the limits of human performance. He averaged eight minutes and 53 seconds per kilometre over 42.195 of them–and he even went out hot, splitting 2:49:40 at the half-marathon mark. Rao seems to be getting faster with age on the Rome Marathon course. In 2022, at 89, he ran six hours and 20 minutes to win his age category outright.

Rao, born in 1933, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that he began running as a teenager to keep up with a friend and hasn’t stopped since. “If I can do it at this age, anyone can,” said Rao. “I’d like to be an example of that.”

According to La Repubblica, Rao had no idea he set a world record when he finished. His family was there to celebrate his accomplishment at the finish line near the Colosseum.  

He took the M90+ record from U.S. marathoner Ernest Van Leeuwen (born. 1912), who recorded a time of 6:46:34 at the 2005 Los Angeles Marathon. Van Leeuwen held the record for 18 years and ran the L.A. Marathon every year until his death in March 2007 at age 94. 

Antonio Rao holds the new M90+ marathon record of 6:14:44. Photo: Sportograf

Rao has run the Rome Marathon every year since 2015 (except during the pandemic), and in 2007 he ran a sub-two-hour half marathon at age 75. In an interview, Rao said he still trains 20 to 30 kilometres each week.

Running is a great way to keep your body active and mind young, and Rao is proving just that. 

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