Being the teenager who nags race directors constantly for race entry dispensations, it’s a coincidence I should be addressing this question.
A 16-year-old running trail marathons and ultras? Shouldn’t his parents be preventing this and be worried about it causing injury and problems with his growth?
It’s amazing going to school each day, seeing my mates’ faces when you tell them your weekend Strava results and statistics. Or even better if you claim a CR on your local Mount! All of them, and I’m being serious think I’m crazy! In the context of young people I guess the real question is, whether they are passionate for the sport, and if so do they know how to listen to their body.
With the commercialization of Ultra-distance trail running, younger teens are being pulled into the high-intensity weeks of training and are being physically drained. Maybe in this scenario, it’s not the distance, it’s the training, the push of large sponsors wanting these athletes to push themselves to their potential. With big training weeks, age does matter, it’s a maturity thing to be able to listen and understand how your body properly works.
But what about those who do listen to their body, those who don’t train to a plan, those who train when they feel good? Does age matter in that context, shouldn’t the maturity define whether these young people have the same ability to compete in these large races similar to adults? In my experience, I haven’t been turned down yet from a race, but have had numerous comments from other competitors, many of them asking why I do it.
It’s a good question I guess.
Why on earth would a young 16-year-old choose to run marathons and be fit, in his prime, social and party years?! Like I said earlier it’s a passion, I enjoy it, and I’m able to understand how to train properly.
So with that said, does age really matter? Well, I believe it comes down to both passion and maturity. Does the young person have a passion for the sport, and sees it as something more than just training? Do they run in the mountains because they enjoy it, and can they listen and understand how their body copes with this running? If yes, then let them do it. My parents have, and I’m glad they did!
Oh and for those who are still worried and don’t quite believe me, I’ve entered for both the Taupo Ultramarathon 50km in October this year, and the Old Ghost Ultra 85km in February 2017. I guess if these races go okay, I would quite like to finish Northburn 100 before I’m 18 (that’s of course with a dispensation! 😉
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By Yonni Kepes