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Distance Running

Answered By Not an expert

Question

I personally have been running marathons for years. This year my 14 year old daughter was dying to train with me and run. I allowed her to do so and she was quite successful. She completed 3 marathons and 2 half marathons this spring/summer. She has tremendous passion to continue, but I am getting a lot of feedback that this is unhealthy for her at such a young age. I am trying to find information on "when is too young?". I can't find a lot so far, and that is why I am asking. So far she has been fairly injury free except for a small IT Band problem that she had PT for. It seems to be getting better fairly rapidly. Do any of you have experience on this subject, or could you direct me to some resources? Right now she's not too happy for me because I am making her take some time off so I can reevaluate and make sure this is healthy for her. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Answer

When I was running in middle school, I noticed plenty of 13 and 14 year olds wanting to move up in distance for racing. They thought that their true talents would be found in the 15K or Half-Marathon rather than a 2-mile cross country race. Some of these kids continued running in high school, but burn-out was much more common. It would be wise to stay away from Marathon and Half-Marathon running this early, since a common temptation is to train more seriously for those distances; thus, mileage starts to accumulate during the week and chances for injury only increases. As far as my own running career, I used to enjoy cross country MUCH more than track because I felt "the longer the better" when it came to races. I was tempted to train for longer road races (Marathons, Half Marathons, etc...), but realized that distance running is about the "long-term" plan. Marathoners especially do not even peak until they reach their late-20s or older. There was a reason why my middle school races were 2-miles, why my high school races were 5K, and why my college races will be 8K. Chronological Age (as opposed to Training Age) is the variable to pay attention to in this question. Just be patient, and make your daughter's running progressive.