December 13, 2009

There There, Marathon Snobs

Today I was thumbing through the January/February 2010 issue of Running Times. I came across the following quote which was also carried in the New York Times:

“It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours. It used to be that running a marathon was worth something—there used to be a pride saying you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’” (Adrienne Wald, a college cross country coach).

Yo Adrienne, please reboot your ego. Hopefully when you login again you will know, as a runner, what running is really about. If you don’t, you should read a few books by George Sheehan, who taught us that running is just as much about self awareness as it is times and competition. Sheehan once wrote that “the mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body”.

If you still don’t understand what running is about, then I suggest you go out on a Sunday and volunteer as a support crew at the finish line of a marathon. But don’t quit after the fast runners are done, wait there until the 6, 7 and 8 hour finishers to come through. You will likely see people who are in their 60’s and older. You might even see people who’ve never done anything athletic in their life, some of whom have struggled for years with physical or emotional problems. When these runners cross the finish line after battling for 26 miles, look into their eyes. When they look back at you, tell them what you really feel.

We runners are all individuals, and we all come in different shapes and sizes, and with varying abilities and ambitions. A fast pace for one, is ultimately slow to another. But we runners share one thing in common, something we should be loath to forget. When we run, we feel alive.

15 comments:

Mel-2nd Chances said...

that article was very frustrating and disappointing to read. There are races for 'faster' runners, Boston is not one of my goals, but I admire those that qualify... but not everyone can. I agree with you that we're all individual, with differing abilities. But the slower runners "go" the same distance as those that finish faster, the medals are the same, race entries are the same regardless of anticipated finish time, and put money into the city with hotel stays, meals, etc. just like any other runner. It's really too bad that these elitest runners can't recognize the accomplishment of these... certainly they aren't threatened. In a society where obesity is an epidemic, anyone who chooses to be active and toe the line should be encouraged. Rant done.

Will said...

Thanks Mel...those are very good points. I forgot to point out the obesity epidemic, and I'm glad you did. Would snobs prefer to have finishers over 5 hours simply not be permitted to run marathons? Like you say, I guess that is what Boston is for. Whatever the case, runners should stick together. Given all the health benefits that come from running, runners should be promoting the sport to others rather than demoting it. Go figure.

Di said...

I guess there are always going to be snobs, in all realms of society/life. Everyone should be encouraged whatever speed they run at.

Dan said...

I couldn't agree more Will. Running changes lives and is so much larger than fast finishing times. The last thing we need is a trip back in time to the "members-only" era.

Love the blog!

Dan

Sydney Hunter said...

cool post! I was expecting something different from someone who runs "ultra's" but was pleasantly surprised. I also read that article in the NY Times a while back and felt the same way. Thanks for the support!!!!

HEATHERRUNS said...

I totally agree!! ...And wasn't it in the 'born to run" book when after the race, Scott Jurek said to the Author how its harder when it takes 12 hours than 6 ! Thats why I love trail running... the slower you are, the better it actually sounds "oh, it was an 8 hour run" Love it! And glad to find your blog.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I've run several marathons, some with the run-walk strategy, some without stopping (only for fluids), and I completely agree, its about the journey, not the end.

The thing that always surprises me about each run is the diversity of people that you encounter . . . each with their own story and all with one goal -- to finish.

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dreams sms said...

Thats a very good point and i like it v.much.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog for the first time and I think I'll keep checking it out. I know my comment comes a bit late here but I want to say this:

It's important to give a person a chance to come around. Even though the coach person sounded ignorant, if you take it into context I can understand where he (or she'd) be coming from, though I don't agree but I still understand it.

I guess it used to be that if you ran a marathon, you were lauded as having accomplished something elite. Now marathons apparently are full of walkers as well. My take on this is that as long as you have people striving for something greater than what they can do today, it's a great thing. Just like the blogger said, when you see people that are crossing that finish line after 7 hours, you see humanity at it's finest (ok, i'm paraphrasing :)).

So again I understand what the coach person is saying but I don't agree, though I think if that same coach were to see the otehr side of things he/she would probably look at things differently.

My guess is this coach spends 100% of his/her time around high-level athletes, so he can't appreciate the struggle of the common person. It only takes exposure to such to allow the opportunity to see things differently.

Anonymous said...

How does this guy know that the six-hour finisher isn't on his/her first marathon? What if he comes out to dominate Leadville 5 years later? Best advice I've gotten for an ultra -"Run your own race. Fat chicks and old people will pass you and you'll want to keep up, but that could blow you out. Just run your own race."

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan, when exactly was the "members only" era for marathons? I do remember a time when most marathon runners took pride in their efforts, including preparation. Roughly the same era in which most students took pride in learning, say, math and science. In the interim, the US population has progressively become fatter and dumber; are we better off now just because everyone gets a medal no matter how they perform?

By the way, George Sheehan was a serious runner, not someone who walked a few miles a week, and then walked 26 miles once a year. And Jeff Galloway, though he now caters to the lowest common denominator because that's where the money is, did not get to be an Olympian by taking "walk breaks."

Pschall said...

Looking back through your old posts... :) Love this one! Thank you for sharing feedback on what running is all about to the majority of us not hitting the podium.

Tiffany said...

I actually read that same article and was feeling pretty pathetic. I am a newer runner and still pretty slow - one of those "never done anything really athletic in their lives" type of people. Thanks for this post... you are right, runners are those who run - no matter how long, how far, how fast... we run, we love it, and that is good enough.

Ashley Jean said...

I love this post. The first marathon I ran I made all the classically ego driven mistakes - too fast - too competitive- and very little sense of accomplishment coupled with a sicker desire that i "still wasn't good enough'. Third marathon I didn't even check the time hardly. I finished and enjoyed my marathon with new resolve and sense of accomplishment that I let myself Experience my marathon. Thank you so much for this - It's been on my bucket list to volunteer for a marathon for a couple years now.