Sunday, November 4, 2007

More Runners is a good thing!

Here is an interesting article about marathon running:

"How Oprah ruined the marathon"

I agree with the author that for a lot of runners, the goal is to "stagger across the finish line." Yes, marathon times on average have gotten slower and slower. My coach at Saint John's used to say that any marathon over three hours was just a long run and not a race. I agree with that assessment, age graded of course.

What I disagree with is that somehow the fact that the times have become slower is a bad thing. More people are running and that is a good thing. For the advanced runner like myself, it means that there are more and better races to run. There is more money available to race directors to supply the race with refreshments, medical care, traffic control and prizes.

Why are times getting slower? While I agree that a lot of it has to do with runner attitude, what the author doesn't discuss is how the demographics of the fields have changed. Marathon running used to be a sport of twenty somethings fresh out of college who were in great shape. According to the Twin Cities Marathon website, the average male runner is 39. Based on my observations at the TCM this year, I was surprised the median age was that young.

Why don't more younger folks run? Maybe the price - here are the registration fees I paid for recent marathons:

Dallas White Rock - $105
Twin Cities - $90.18
Sioux City - $53.98

The author also asks "Has this country's marathoning spirit been trampled by hordes of joggers whose only goal is to stagger across the finish line?" This is a definite no. There is no connection between the performance of USA elite athletes and the average marathon runner.

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