The Marathon Debate

I wish I would have found this article last week prior to the NYC Marathon.  I think it raises an interesting debate about running and age.  The article is essentially asking, “Should kids run marathons?”  The NY Times interviewed three men who ran the marathon in the ’70s when they were around the age of nine.  Not only did they run it, but they had great times, with one of them finishing in 3 hours 31 seconds.  They trained properly and seemingly only asked their bodies to do what they were capable of doing.  In 1981 the NY Marathon implemented an age minimum of 16 years old, and then raised it to 18 in the late ’80s.  My question is, “What makes an 8 year old different from a 16 year old, different from an 18 year old?”  I believe the answer is…not much.  An 8 year old has the same muscles and bones that an 88 year old has.  True, the 8 year old isn’t finished growing yet, but I don’t believe that running would have any long-term, negative impact on their body.  Any injuries that these three men suffered along the way weren’t running’s fault or due to their age.

Here’s my favorite quote from the article:

Pre-adult injuries have not completely stopped Paul, Black and Breinan.  “I have bad knees now,” Breinan said, insisting that running was not to blame because he also played other sports.

What a great outlook.  He realizes that running isn’t to blame, because I’m sure like millions of other kids all over the world, he played baseball, soccer, basketball, tag, etc.  The unfortunate part is that he thinks of his knees as “bad”.  My guess is that they aren’t “bad” but simply trying to get his attention and alert him that something isn’t quite right.  If anyone knows Mr. Breinan I’d love to help change his outlook on his knee pain.

So, at what age do we become too fragile to run?  Personally, I don’t think age has anything to with one’s ability to finish 26.2 miles.  I ran the Country Music Marathon when I was 24 and noticed that ALL types were at the starting line; male, female, young, old, skinny, fat.  I decided then and there that ANYONE can run a marathon.  We are designed to run long distances.  Our body is built for stamina.  That’s how our early ancestors hunted their dinner.  They would chase their target over such a long distance that the animal would fatigue, thus allowing for an easy kill and subsequently, a great meal.

So, get outside and RUN.  And, then enjoy a great meal!