Marathon Running And Age: How Young Is Too Young?

(Ed. note -- promoted to the front page)

Hello, runners. Long-time lurker here, first time poster. Let me start by saying how happy I am that we have a running-specific site on the network. It's great to have a place like this to discuss the sport on the wonderful SB Nation platform.

Introductory praise aside, now it's on to the substance of my post. I am a 21-year-old undergraduate who ran cross country for five years (starting in 8th grade) in high school and has since continued to run, albeit not to the level of intensity of those years, during college. I have completed a couple of half marathons and this past weekend ran a great race in a ten miler. I definitely prefer the long race to the 5K, a distance I'm not sure I'll ever be able to bring myself to race again after the anguish-laden memories generated by cross country. As I look into my running future I find myself conflicted. I want to run a marathon, and I want to run it well. If I were to do one I would choose between Richmond and Charlotte, both in mid-November, which would have me starting a traditional 16-week training plan in July. My goal would be to qualify for Boston, one that I believe is realistic based upon my performance in the longer races I've run to date. I've handled mileages of around 50/week before with my only stress injury so far coming during my first year of serious running.

The problem I'm facing is that I'm feeling pressured to take on this challenge right now. Next year will be my fourth, after which I hope to attend law school. I don't see myself having the time to seriously train during the years I hope to spend there. So, for me it's now or not until 3 or 4 years down the line. My question for the esteemed running minds here is, how young would you consider to be too young to tackle the demanding task that is seriously training for and racing the mighty 26.2? I understand that the answer to this question will be highly individualized based on the amount of mileage one has been able to handle in the past, and I think that my chances are good, but I'm looking more to gauge the general consensus on age and marathon running. What challenges might a young first-time marathoner face in attempting this feat? I have several friends my age and younger who are experiencing similar feelings. Thanks in advance for any insight you all may be able to share.

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