Monday, September 20, 2010

10 or 12 is too young for a marathon!

I mentioned this last year and had many people come up and say that they agreed. Let's keep the Equinox open to runners 18 and up. There are very few marathons in the US that allow young runners and that's a good thing. Not to mention, the Equinox is one of the toughest courses anywhere.

This year there were nine boys (some under 10) and five girls under 17 years old who participated in the full marathon. The number of entrants has increased from previous years.

Why not add a new 17 and under division to the relay? Eight or nine miles is plenty for a young kid.


Anonymous mike o'brien said...

I've been thinking about this issue since you raised it last year. I think exercise science may support your argument, but only if these kids are really running the Equinox. But Equinox history is full of kids participating in the race at unbelievably young ages--I believe Greg Whisenhant was 7 in the inaugural race--who have gone on to be healthy adults. And at least five women under 18 have won the Equinox, with Mara Rabinowitz only 12 at the time of her win. So that's a tradition to be honored. That said, if my son wanted to really run the Equinox at 12, I'd discourage it for the same reasons you worry about. Another issue is the pace at which kids are "competing" in the Equinox. At seven, eight or nine hours of walking/running, are they really hurting their bodies in the way that they might if they ran it in four or five hours? Or are they really just hiking? I used to do 20+ mile hikes routinely as a Boy Scout, and while I was exhausted, I wouldn't compare that exhaustion with the physical aftermath of "running" a marathon. If my son wanted to do a eight or nine hour Equinox hike, I would probably support that, even if he was only eight or nine years old. So if the kids are really doing a steady all day hike of the Equinox, I think that's part of the event's tradition and well within what's safe. A very few kids will want to really race it, and that's their parents' call. That said, a well publicized, competitive "junior" relay competition would be great addition to an already great race, and may mitigate some of the valid safety concerns you raise.

Mike O'Brien

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Roger said...

Mike, thank you for your thoughtful comments. Even though I am not for kids participating in marathons, I do have mixed feelings about the short and long term effects. Some of us might rememember the amazing Wesley Paul who ran astounding marathon times (sub 3 I think) as a 9 or 10 year old. I read an article when he was in his 20s or 30s, and he grew up fine and said he just enjoyed running when he was a kid. And I agree that walking 25 or 26.2 miles in 7, 8, or 9 hours is probably no different from going for a weekend hike or backpacking trip. Nevertheless, running/racing the full distance? Which is inevitable for some kids...Probably best to let them wait until they're fully grown.

11:43 AM  

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