Wall Street Journal: Runners Are Getting Slower

As more people take up endurance sports, finishing times are shooting through the roof. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Finishing times are going the wrong way among younger athletes.

As the popularity of doing races from 5Ks to long-distance triathlons increases, the desire to finish fast drops.

According to the data, and as reported by the Wall Street Journal, the younger generation of runners isn’t all that concerned with time. They just want to finish.

“There’s not as many super-competitive athletes today as when the baby boomers were in their 20s and 30s,” Running USA’s Ryan Lamppa said in the WSJ story. “Many new runners come from a mindset where everyone gets a medal and it’s good enough just to finish.”

Kevin Hellikerm, who wrote the story, used himself as an example. In the recent Chicago Triathlon, he finished in the top 11 percent overall. And he’s in the 50-54 age group.

Is this generational trend linked to the absence of a U.S. Olympic marathon medal since the 2004 Games? Hellikerm makes the point that 40-year-old Deena Kastor was the top-performing American woman in the marathon at the world championships last month. And Meb Keflezighi, 38, had the best time of all U.S. men in the London Olympics marathon last summer.

And at 37, Hunter Kemper could be considered the top Olympic-distance triathlete in the U.S.

According to the story, the average finishing time for men’s marathon runners has gone up 44 minutes from 1980 through 2011.

“If you’re going to get just as much praise for doing a four-hour marathon as a three-hour, why bother killing yourself training?” noted Letsrun.com founder Robert Johnson. “It’s hard to do well in a marathon if your idea of a long session is watching season four of ‘The Wire.’”

So is it a generational difference, or do athletes simply perform better in their 30s and above?

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