Excuse me for a second while I get up on my soapbox...
Over the weekend a friend sent me this blog post
on salon.com. I encourage you to read it but beware, feelings of anger and thoughts of throwing
something across the room may happen.
The Cliff Notes version is the author (who has never actually finished a marathon, but tried once) writes about how Oprah and all the slower runners have wrecked the competitive spirit. He writes:
"With all these runners, and all this technology, you'd think America wouldbe turning out faster and faster marathoners. Instead, the opposite ishappening. The more we run marathons, the slower we get -- an averageof 45 minutes slower over the last 25 years. Ryan Hall is the swiftestAmerican-born marathoner ever. His best race isn't in the top 250 ofall time."He must not have done his homework when he wrote this blog on Friday because Ryan Hall beat the Marathon Trials record from the early 80s with an outstanding 2:09:02 on a very challenging, hilly Central Park course. And it was only his third marathon ever. That, and the top three men (Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell) a spot on the Olympic Marathon Team are training on "Teams"sponsored by Nike, Brooks/Saturn, and Asics. These companies are investing in developing elite US marathon runners BECAUSE of the masses. And it is working.
He also fails to mention Deana Kastor who broke the American Marathon record and won a bronze medal in Athens. Little does he know that the elite runners are getting stronger because of the masses of mortal runners toeing the line at marathons. The elite runners are also the first ones to encourage mortals to run. They are by no means negatively affected by the slower runners. The larger the race, the larger the prize purse and sponsorship. Runners fast and not-so-fast contribute to their winnings.
It also hit a cord with me because he blames Oprah and the Penguin, who just happens to be my loving husband. I don't know Oprah but I love who she is and what she's done. Her marathon was all about transformation in
her own life. And she ran it in a very respectable time too. John has spent the better part of 12 years motivating inactive people to get active and discover the runner within. With obesity creeping up to being the most deadly disease in the nation, getting people active is a very good thing.
And yes, the average finish times are slower than they were 20 years ago, but there were a mere 1,000 or fewer runners in marathons then too. The times are slower because there are 30,000 runners not 1,000! It simple math. Not to mention, had the author tried to run a marathon 20 years ago, he would have been in the back of the pack. Which is the group he is blaming for the dumming down of the sport.
Today's runners fast and slow are motivating tomorrow's champions. The sons, daughters and even grandkids are watching their parents finish the race and that not only motivates them to run it also gives them permission to try. Life is short. Get out there and run, cycle, and be fit. And never let anyone tell you that you can't. Because being a marathoner is not about how fast you get to the finish, it is about having the tenacity to train, prepare and gather up the courage to show up at the start line.