Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When youth is no longer on your side ...

The Olympics have delivered one more lesson. During one of the skating events this past weekend, the NBC commentator said of a couple's particularly ebullient performance, "Youth is on their side!"

Is youth always an advantage in sports? Well, yeah. Pretty much.

I made a short video of my running yesterday by placing my little camera on the ground and running away from it so I could see my foot strike. I ran far enough that my entire body entered the frame. When I went to study the video, I made the HUGE mistake of accidentally playing it back in slow motion for a few seconds.

I'm not going to describe it. I'm just going to tell you that it took me an hour to come out of the fetal position. I have no idea what's wrong with my foot strike. I never got that far. Who cares??? Forget that I no longer have youth on my side. I'm now far more concerned about age on my butt.

But the marathon is a sport where being a little older is okay. In fact, it's possible for an older marathon runner to finish ahead of a younger runner because judgment factors heavily into covering 26.2 miles and with age comes wisdom. I've seen a lot of young lions who went out too fast and imploded too many excruciating miles from the finish. And I've seen older runners who designed tactical races that to the casual observer, might have seemed reined in at the start, but were calculated for negative splits and guaranteed finishes.

Success in a marathon depends on two things: superlative, meticulous training and judgment. As I said a while back, the marathon is a great leveler of people. And while youth is an advantage, maybe chronological age is less a factor than your ability to put all the pieces together wisely.

And maybe you should NEVER shoot video of yourself running from the rear. Ever.

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