The Slowest Generation?

So apparently the Wall Street Journal has caught on: Gen Y’s idea of fun is running marathons.

But against the entire sprint-distance field, I finished in the top 11%. That’s right: Team Geriatric outperformed the field.

I’d love to report that this reflects the age-defying effects of triathlon. But my hair is gray, my hearing is dull and my per-mile pace is slower than it used to be, even at shorter distances.

Rather, this old-timer triumph is attributable to something that fogies throughout the ages have lamented: kids these days.

They’re just not very fast. “There’s not as many super-competitive athletes today as when the baby boomers were in their 20s and 30s,” said Ryan Lamppa, spokesman for Running USA, an industry-funded research group. While noting the health benefits that endurance racing confers regardless of pace, Lamppa—a 54-year-old competitive runner—said, “Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and it’s good enough just to finish.”

Okay, but the thing is (I say as a new runner myself): finishing is difficult, and most Gen Y runners have only just started running, as far as I can tell. Running wasn’t emphasized as a competitive sport when we were growing up, so we’re competing: just only against ourselves.

I actually think this line was the most revealing of a generational mindset:

Of course, there are countless super-elite young athletes. And only because the young have no need to prove they’re not old was I able to outrace so many of them last month. Still, apathetic competition offers little comfort to some aging athletes.

What do you think?

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  • Personally, I see running as less about competition than about meditation. Sure, I wanted to do well in the most recent race I ran (the Thunder Dash mud run with super manly obstacles including barbed wire and other dangerous stuff). But I only did well because I run many times each week. On race day, I kept my same pace, prayed my same prayers, and walked up the steep hills like always to keep my footing.

    That seems like healthy competition to me. I wasn’t driven to hurt myself. I just wanted to hold steady, and really that is true for most things in my life.