Some observers see larger and scarier implications in the declining competitiveness of young endurance athletes. "This is emblematic of the state of America's competitiveness, and should be of concern to us all," Toni Reavis, a veteran running commentator, wrote in a blog post this week entitled "Dumbing Down, Slowing Down." 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.Last month, Competitor Group Inc. announced it would no longer pay appearance fees for professional runners to compete at its Rock 'n' Roll marathon and half-marathon series in the U.S. CGI still pays travel expenses and more for the elite.But to some observers, that change contributed to a growing embrace of mediocrity."If you're going to get just as much praise for doing a four-hour marathon as a three-hour, why bother killing yourself training?" asked Robert Johnson, a founder of LetsRun.com, adding that, "It's hard to do well in a marathon if your idea of a long session is watching season four of 'The Wire.'"
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