Are There Minimum Age Requirements to Run a Marathon?

Marathon Runners, Florence
Mark A Leman/Getty Images

"I'm a 15-year-old runner, and I really want to run a marathon. Do you have to be a certain age to run a marathon?"

Marathon Minimum Age Requirements

Most marathons have age requirements, and the minimum age is usually 16 or 18 years old. Marathons that have a lower age minimum do exist (I saw kids younger than 10 running the Honolulu marathon), but I recommend waiting a few years before you participate.

Have you done races at other distances? I would suggest doing some 5Ks or 10Ks before you take on a marathon. Completing one of those distances would be an incredible accomplishment, especially for a 15-year-old, and doing so will definitely prepare you for a future marathon. Plus, you'll have something to look forward to in the future.

Training for a marathon is extremely time-consuming, exhausting, and tough physically and mentally. At such a young age, it's bound to have a big effect on other priorities in your life, such as school and spending time with friends and family.

Before you enter a race, check the participant rules to see what the age requirements are and whether you need a parental permission form. Discuss your desire to do a marathon with your parents. Training for a marathon is going to take months of long runs, and it will have an impact on your family life and social life.

You need to involve your parents in this decision.

Why Are There Minimum Age Requirements for a Marathon?

Most experts would recommend at least waiting until kids get through puberty before running a marathon. A lot of doctors recommend avoiding extreme distance running for kids and young teens because the repetitive trauma may cause damage to bones that are still growing.

A study of marathon finishers aged 7 to 17 years old who finished the Twin Cities Marathon found that only four out of 310 needed medical attention at the race, and all were minor in nature. However, this study didn't cover what the long term effects of distance running and training had on these youths. But it might be a reassurance to race directors who are considering what the minimum participant age should be for their marathon.

A small study looked at the effects of marathon running on teenagers and found no evidence of liver or kidney injury. Another looked at cardiac troponin levels, a sign of damage to the heart that can be seen in myocardial infarction. These are often elevated with adult marathon runners, and they were similar in the teenage marathon runners. They quickly returned to normal as they do with adults. However, the fact that a marathon has this effect on the heart is one reason it is considered an extreme sport and should be done with caution.

Often a race will set the minimum age requirement based on the recommendations or requirements of their liability insurance provider.

Nobody wants to be sued by parents when something bad happens to a minor during a race, and this could result in higher settlement costs or sympathetic jury awards. As a result, race organizers err on the side of caution and set the age requirements accordingly.

Also see: 


Roberts WO, Nicholson WG. Youth marathon runners and race day medical risk over 26 years. Clin J Sport Med. 2010 Jul;20(4):318-21. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181e6301d.

Traiperm N, Gatterer H, Wille M, Burtscher M. Cardiac troponins in young marathon runners. Am J Cardiol. 2012 Aug 15;110(4):594-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.03.052. Epub 2012 May 10.

Traiperm N, Gatterer H, Pariwat P, Burtscher M. "Energy metabolism, liver and kidney function in adolescent marathon runners." Eur J Clin Invest. 2016 Jan;46(1):27-33. doi: 10.1111/eci.12561. Epub 2015 Dec 1.

Continue Reading