I ran my first marathon when I was 15 years old, January 19, 1975. I was a sophomore in high school. My son is 15 now - a freshman running track. I showed him my certificate and told him I ran my first marathon when I was 15. I asked if he wanted to try it. Not yet, he said. I hope my running history does not put undue pressure on expectations of his performance. It probably does, but I really try not to push it on him too much. Just setting an example and showing interest in his efforts, whatever the result is, should be enough. Too much will push him out of it, probably.
Here is a scan of the 1977 certificate. I ran a 4:24:18 in my first marathon. If I remember correctly, I didn't train too much for it. I think probably only a few weeks of running, maxing out at only about 12 miles.
The following year, with another track and XC season behind me, I ran it again. If I remember the race correctly, it was freezing cold and snowing. I remember an icicle formed on the face-mask/hat thing I wore. I touched my chin at the half-marathon turn-around and thought my chin was literally frozen, but it was just the icicle formed by my exhales. At 16 years old I ran 3:35:30.
In my third marathon - my third road race, at 17 years old, a senior in high school - I broke three hours, running the Jersey Shore Marathon in 2:53:21. In retrospect, I feel like I was a fairly good distance runner at a fairly young age. I didn't really appreciate that until now, at 49, when it was a painful struggle to to run 3:18 last November in Philly. Also, this makes me kind of psyched, to recall all this marathoning history that I honestly forgot about, as I am heading into Boston on Monday for its 113th running. It will be my 19th marathon, if I have my count correct.
In 1978 I was a freshman at Rutgers. I was a lowly walk-on to the Rutgers XC and track teams. I ran the Penn Relay Marathon in 2:41 and change. I was the third college runner, and I have a bronze Penn Relays medal to show for it. This was a time that I was doing hundred mile training weeks leading up to marathons.
I think I was lucky. My desire to run marathons at a young age was fueled by Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, and the culture of distance running that I became acquainted with. It was, and still is, my source of friendship and feelings of self-esteem and accomplishment. I am hoping that Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher become roll models for the young high school aged runners and spur them on to a great running life.