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Sure, a 16 year old can cover the distance with proper guidance but what does that do with his future? I've seen several articles about a “young prodigy” running a marathon in his teens. I can't think of a single one whose name I saw after his 20th birthday.
It's true that these kids aren't training to be the next Olympian but should we put them out there in a marathon if it could risk their future?
I might think otherwise depending on the quality/experience of the mentors and the ability of the mentors to just flat out say “you're not ready” but, based on what I've seen, I'd have to say they should be focusing on shorter distances.