Posted by: Dean Hebert | March 18, 2009

How old should you be to do your first marathon?

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

One of our younger readers writes in to ask the following question, which Coach Dean answers below:

“I am a 16 year old female. One day, I would love to run marathons. I’ve heard that if you start running too long when you’re young though that it is bad for you. My maximum mileage now is 10 miles (though I usually run about 6-7). When is a good age to start preparing for marathons?”

Well, to start with I like the fact that you say “one day” you would like to run marathons as opposed to wanting to run one now. In answering, this we have to separate what is possible from what is prudent and recommended for your long-term health and fitness.

I’ll cite a good example of a young man more than 35 years ago who set the age group record for the marathon – at the age of 10. He ran 2:57. He does still run as well as compete in cycling races and triathlons. He is still a very good and talented athlete. It appears he is none the worse for wear by running early and running marathons. On the other hand, did he develop into the best runner he could have been? We’ll never know of course. How many of you have heard of Reggie Heywood? How many Olympic teams did he make? How many NCAA championships did he win?

The overriding consideration here is that there are the trade-offs in deciding to run something like a marathon while you’re young.

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