There was a time when racing a marathon was thought to be something a distance runner worked up to during the course of his or her running career. The reasons for this belief are both sound and logical. They were well articulated by Bill Rodgers many years ago when he said: "I believe you cannot reach your maximum potential in a marathon until you're in your middle to late twenties or early thirties. You must build your mileage up slowly over a period of years." It's my belief that if you were to start racing marathons in your late twenties it should only be after having many years of distance base in the bank. I am not saying that young American runners cannot race fast marathon times, it's just that years of distance running, say 10 and more, help to prepare,condition and strengthen the body in a way that there is no short cut for. I have seen college age guys who had the potential to race well at the 5k go directly to the marathon and eventually become physically and mentally burned out. This is because marathon racing takes both mental and physical maturity. Arthur Lydiard once said that no one should have been surprised that Carlos Lopes at age 37 won the 1984 Olympic marathon. He cited the type of training and racing Carlos had done in his career as laying the foundation for his victory in '84. By the way, he was a silver medalist in the 10k at the 1976 Olympic Games. Let's not forget that drops in racing performance due to age are less pronounced as the distance gets longer.What's the old saying, "to everything there is a season?" Build your competitive running career in a way that has the potential to maximize performance in each distance you transition into.