Things are heating up in marathon running circles, or should we say slowing down? The New York Times reported that by allowing slower runners on the New York City Marathon route, the intensity of the debate over how quickly an able-bodied runner should finish the once-elite event is increasing.

Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984 said, “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’ ”

Wald could be right. Just look at the stats Running USA, a nonprofit organization that tracks trends in distance running, has: In 1980, the median finishing time for male runners in United States marathons was 3 hours 32 minutes 17 seconds, a pace of about eight minutes per mile. In 2008, the median finishing time was 4:16, a pace of 9:46. For women, that time in 1980 was 4:03:39. Last year, it was 4:43:32.

John Bingham, a runner who is known as the Penguin and credited with starting the slow-running movement, has been told that he ruined the sport of running, “The complainers are just a bunch of ornery, grumpy people who want the marathon all to themselves and don’t want the slower runners. But too bad. The sport is fueled and funded by people like me.”

The New York City Marathon, scheduled for Nov. 1, will have a field of about 40,000. And even though the race officially ends after 6:30, the timing system will be in place until 8:40 for all those penguins.