Slow Young People

Articles detailing the differences between the generations seem to be oddly prolific these days. Especially those discussing how wanting the current generation is for improvement of some kind. More often then not, however, a given piece will boil down not to "what's wrong with the next generation" but instead boil down to "what's wrong with people in their 20s" - a far stupider concept. But, sometimes this is not the case, as with a recent article from the Wall St. Journal that attempts to demonstrate a particular failing of the current generation from the perspective of a baby boomer: You're all slow - literally.

Saying I finished in the top 15% of my age group in last month's Chicago Triathlon is like bragging that I could outrun your grandpa. My age group was 50 to 54.

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

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

Aww yeah. You know you've struck gold when the author throws down a "kids these days."

The article starts off in an incredibly unforgiving manner towards the younger generation:

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."

You couldn't fit any more "baby boomers vs. millennials" stereotypes into that paragraph. Also, competitiveness:

Now, a generational battle is raging in endurance athletics. Old-timers are suggesting that performance-related apathy among young amateur athletes helps explain why America hasn't won an Olympic marathon medal since 2004.

Please don't pay attention to the fact that the US has only been sporadically good at the marathon over the past 100 years (the US was fairly dominant prior to 1910). Also, please ignore the complete lack of supporting documentation or the names of said "old timers". Lastly, also ignore the fact that US marathoner, Khalid Khannouchi (previously of Morocco) held the world record in 2002:

Median U.S. marathon finishes for men rose 44 minutes from 1980 through 2011, according to Running USA, and last year nearly 75% of road-race finishers were 44 or younger, with 25- to 34-year-olds representing the largest age group.

This passage's purpose is ostensibly to demonstrate that because the median finish time is getting worse and since young people make up the largest age group, then young people are slow and this is why we're not good at the marathon on the international stage. This, of course, assumes that "median finish time" has any implication, at all, for those elite few who actually compete at the international level. The middle finisher of a series of local and regional meets that anyone can compete in means exactly nothing. This is baby boomer hubris at its worst. Because the author has competed at these events, they must be important. They're not. Baby boomers are not special and unique snowflakes.

Interestingly enough, upon reviewing the information from the article's cited source, Running USA, a completely different picture is painted when I look at the data. What sticks out immediately is the sheer growth of the number of marathon finishers. In 1980, there were 143,000 finishers, making the median time of 3:32:17 (for men) attributable to the (roughly) 71,500th best time. In 2011, there were 518,000 finishers, making the median time of 4:16:34 attributable to the 209,000th best time. I wonder how the guy who finished 71,500th in 2011 did?

The author continues on about how new races like Tough Mudder (an obstacle course) and Color Run (described as "all about a color crazy day with friends and family"), and how everyone should be timed. These naturally sit along with other boilerplate passages you'd expect to see from such an article - I won't bore you by including them here. However, near the end of the piece there's a few sentences that are unmatched in their sheer arrogance:

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 the younger monkeys here think? Am I being too rough on this guy? Are 50+ baby boomers actually superior to all of you?

Comments (29)

Sep 25, 2013 - 2:06pm

1.) Marathoners tend to peak later than other athletes.
2.) The US has won a number of other Olympic medals over the past 10 years.
3.) The Greatest Generation did similar whining about baby boomers.
4.) We will eventually be deciding how much social security you guys get, and you racked up appx. $5 trillion in debt under Reagan and another $6 trillion under Bush. So your generation shouldn't be *too* mean to us.

Sep 25, 2013 - 5:25pm


4.) We will eventually be deciding how much social security you guys get...

Much as I'd wish for this, I doubt it will be the case. Politicians are loathe to cut payouts to existing payees of any social benefit program.

I think a more likely scenario would entail politicians having younger generations (i.e. us) continue to pay for full benefits of current retirees (i.e. WWII and boomers) but then modifying the program so that it effectively doesn't exist by the time we would be receiving any payouts. Similar to the way most companies have current workers pay for the pensions of retirees but do not offer pensions for the current workers.

It's the whole "exploit opportunity --> change the rules so successive generations cannot exploit the same opportunity" model. You see at work it in many aspects of modern economic life: pensions (younger workers fund annuities of retired workers), healthcare (younger people subsidize the premiums of older people), housing (property tax and rent control laws favor older / long established residents), and business (regulations generally favor incumbent players -- e.g. the whole Uber controversy).

No one will every say the WWII (I don't think they are the "Greatest Generation" by any menas as they set a lot of the current malaise in motion) or the boomers didn't set themselves up nicely at the expense of others...

Sep 25, 2013 - 2:09pm

Frankly, I don't think some grandpa's complaints about generation Y Marathoners or GYPSYs really merits a response from us. The Baby Boomers will fade into the obscurity of the whining generation; Generation X will fade into the obscurity of the generation that can't work together or with other people.

It's our time now. Let's worry about what we think about us and stop worrying about what the grandpas think. They probably just need more Advil.

Sep 25, 2013 - 2:12pm

dude u talk about triathlons.

try mixed martial arts, weightlifting, athletics or something else explosive vs young tigers... older people take triathlons/marathons etc. seriously, younger generations don't really find it attractive.

also, what IP said above.

Sep 25, 2013 - 2:13pm

Would you please re-write your second sentence?

And who gives a fuck about marathon running? Our generation is clearly smart enough to realize that specializing in "distance running" is one of the more retarded avenues in athletics. You develop a scrawny body, very shitty prize money, and most importantly, chicks do not dig Mo Farah or whoever else is killing the distance running game. I often find that old people are bitter towards young people because we have it going on: we're 10x more efficient, we don't waste our time and $ taking girls on "dates," our technology does shit for us, and most importantly, we actually live in our 20's. Fuck the mortgage, the family can wait, I'd rather chase girls, party, and take advantage of my young bod while I can - which is something most old farts did not do.

Sep 25, 2013 - 2:35pm

This has nothing to do with baby boomers or millennials--this is an age old phenomena where older generations feel superior to younger generations. We'll likely be doing the same thing in a few decades..

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers" -Plato

Sep 25, 2013 - 3:18pm

"this is an age old phenomena where older generations feel superior to younger generations."

Eh, I think it goes both ways. But yeah, screw the boomers, I'll chip in on this

Sep 25, 2013 - 3:32pm

Am I wrong for thinking that running isn't really a sport? I mean, it is a great physical feat to run a marathon or iron man, but what is this guy talking about anyways?

"There's not as many super-competitive athletes today as when the baby boomers were in their 20s and 30s,"

I'm pretty sure that their is a massive amount of evidence to the contrary and am not sure where this guy gets off saying this. Look at any competetive team in today's world, and at every level (HS, amateur, pro, college, etc) they could likely destroy their equivalents from even a decade ago.

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.
Sep 25, 2013 - 3:37pm

I totally agree with what's been said:
1. Long distance, by itself, is the handicapped cousin of actual sports.
2. There has been a huge shift in how people think about long distance running. It's gone from running marathons and other events is some sort of incredibly competitive sport, to what it is today, a fun activity/hobby.
3. I don't think there was a huge proliferation of other engaging athletic activities "back in the day."
4. I'm not an expert on gauging athletic ability or performance, but I am a fan older movies made by baby boomers and I've never watched one and thought, "these people are in great shape."

Sep 25, 2013 - 3:53pm


running distance races for the sake of completion instead of competition is becoming more and more of a "thing" for young adults nowadays. there's still that competitive subset in the younger age group, but they are being diluted by this new group who don't consider themselves distance runners, but are looking to for a personal challenge.

and there's really nothing wrong with that... it doesn't say much about the "competitiveness" of our nation. it just says that more people with different goals are participating in distance races.

and the baby boomers can go suck it.

Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?
Sep 25, 2013 - 4:34pm

If there's any reason there are a greater number of older marathoners, it's because they have a desperate need to validate their meaningless existence as they fade away into obscurity. Look at me: I didn't accomplish shit else in my life, but I ran a marathon!

Old people can't die soon enough. And I'm one of them.

Sep 25, 2013 - 5:11pm

There's also other options that our generation values, sometimes more than the boomers. I'm probably the worst bartender in my area, and we're kind of known for having a lot of bars. Why? While everyone's watching the Yankees, I'm watching rock climbing and x-games. Truth is, I don't know and don't care who the hell is being paid gazillions of dollars to throw a ball or run fast. Go ahead and pay a couple hundred bucks to be bored at a stadium and buy $10 crappy beer in a plastic cup, I'm going surfing at 5AM before work because I actually enjoy it.

@ eddie - you can't die, who the hell else am I going to rip easy money trading ideas off of? You have to promise all of us that you will never die. No homo.

Get busy living
Sep 26, 2013 - 1:05pm

More of the old generation talking down about the new one. Has been happening since time began, and will probably always happen. It just sucks that unfortunately the people that are paid to give their opinion seem to be of the opinion that we blow, as a generation. I meet lots of Boomers who love our generation and are excited to see what we do. There's always a loud, vocal minority that ruins it for everyone. Although I'm not sure if they're a minority, but hopefully.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."
Sep 26, 2013 - 1:11pm

I run triathalons and old tri athletes are the most annoying motherfuckers on earth. I would seriously consider lighting one on fire if it wouldnt just lead to him talking about how being so 'hot' helped his 'core'. Fucking Hate.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
Sep 26, 2013 - 1:25pm

The guy finished top 11%. He sucks. And he is celebrating that he sucks. His comment about "apathetic competition" feels very out of place considering that, as stated, he sucks.

If 90% of the competitors were just having fun, then he may have lost to every single person competing for real, at any age (did I mention he sucks?)

Sep 26, 2013 - 1:29pm

And, BTW, people are people.

Baby boomers would all be messaging each other through smartphones during the whole day if they had the chance when they were younger, Gen Y would all be composed of very serious people if they were born in time to be draw to WWII, etc. People are people - what changes are the circumstances - any person who acts high and mighty on the borderline crazy belief that some generation has an inherited advantage is misguided at best.

Sep 26, 2013 - 1:29pm

A sprint distance tri is like a morning workout before work for people who actually take this shit seriously. What a fucking worthless person.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
Sep 26, 2013 - 1:37pm

I would beat any old person at a 10m race (yes that is meters). Sorry, not much endurance..

This to all my hatin' folks seeing me getting guac right now..
Sep 26, 2013 - 2:07pm

I've never considered running a sport. Sort of like swimming, golf, or racing. These are just activities.

To me, a sport is an athletic competition in which you actively affect the performance of your opponent. That's not to say 'activities' are bad or don't have merit, they just aren't sports in my book.

Sep 26, 2013 - 3:09pm

I've never considered running a sport. Sort of like swimming, golf, or racing. These are just activities.

I would disagree on the "activities" moniker for running, swimming, and auto/horse racing, but I still don't think they're sports (I do like your definition of a sport though - actively affecting your opponent). They're races, and a race is different than a sport in pretty much every aspect; from training to how a competition is structured. Racing sports.

Golf, on the other hand, is definitely an activity. Granted, it's an awesome one where you can get drunk while playing. I'd play golf over any sport any day of the week (note: I'm terrible at golf but I'm awesome at drinking).

"My caddie's chauffeur informs me that a bank is a place where people put money that isn't properly invested."
Sep 26, 2013 - 3:50pm
People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.
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