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I do most of my running through street runs on my own now, but there was a time when I ran mostly in groups, and I noticed a curious phenomenon, then. Most the runners had started running later in life; numerically speaking, with few exceptions, the runners I met running marathons and half-marathons didn’t do it in high school in college.

So where were all the semi-professional runners? Retired, it seems. In any case, not with us. I found that a little mysterious. In thinking about it, I wondered if it was because, without the official structure of a training program, they’d simply stopped. Once you start to associate an activity with an official scaffolding, it can be hard to ‘go back’ to doing it without an official imprimatur, on your own.

We can see this problem in other places, too. An official structure is usually positive, when it can guide people in the best directions, give them the support of having a whole edifice around them, and lend credibility to their efforts by reassuring others that their activity is worthwhile. Most of the time, without question, it is undoubtedly positive.

One of the downsides, though, is that, without that official structure, people may return to the work they should be doing on their own, once that structure has run its course. Even that education is supposed to support those efforts, they may not see the value in it, or persist in it without the nurturing of outside support.

In the case of running, whether you ran in high school and college or not, you would certainly be doing yourself a favor by running to maintain your health. This goes double as you enter middle age, and accelerates in value on up from there. Yet, from the numbers that I saw, there’s no way that the runners who ran in high school and college were present in the running clubs in anything like their former numbers. This is true even after accounting for their size as a small fraction of that population. A lot of them must have quit, though they had so much to teach and share.

People forget, very easily, that the lessons they’ve learned would benefit others.  I’ve seen it a million times, but it bears repeating: share what you know – other people appreciate it.

Look at Stack Overflow. There’s always a boatload of simple technical questions that have each been viewed 10,000 times on StackOverflow, each starting off with an in-the-ballpark question and a few tangled answers, yet an improved, reformatted answer never appears. The amount of time it would take one person to write that answer and shave 15 minutes off the solution for the next 500 people would be trivial, but no one ever gets around to writing that 100 man-hour saving solution.

So do what you can to help. The people you help may not be very vocal about it, they might never get around to saying ‘thanks’ or ‘that did it,’ but they will appreciate it.


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