Cross-country is the bailiwick of the young

In looking over the results of December’s USATF Club National Cross-Country Championships in North Carolina, I noticed that the first male finisher over the age of 30 was Chad Johnson (34) in 39th, and that only one woman in the top 30 was over 30 (Katherine Newbury, 32, in fourth). On the men’s side, you have to go all the way back to 175th place to find the first 35-year-old, and things in the women’s field look little different, although it’s worth noting that 46-year-old Colleen De Reuck opted to run in the open race rather than the masters competition and wound up 59th.

A glance at the results of this month’s USATF National Cross-Country Championships (distinct from the club champs in that there’s no team prizes awarded and the top finishers go on to the IAAF World Champs in March) reveals similar data.

What’s striking to me about this is that cross-country and the marathon make excellent partners in various ways, yet marathoners tend to peak in their early 30s, sometimes later (especially on the women’s side). Some of the best harriers have proven to be some of the best marathoners, with the crossover between track and either of these disciplines seemingly less complete. I could propose a number of plausible reasons for these observations, but because I’m not even certain of my premise and also because I’m in a hurry to urinate, I’m going to pass.