But you see, the "real" runner and triathlete over at Frayed Laces (self-defined as "real" apparently because she qualified for Boston and Kona) has her knickers in a wad because other lowly mortals dare to do marathons and then (gasp) have the audacity to call themselves marathoners. Even if they finish in 4 or 5 hours, or more! And they might even eat (bigger gasp) chicken nuggets at the end! Her attitude can be summed up by her closing words:
what I want to scream out is "I train 20 hours a week! I push myself in training to the point of puking! You're doing this once to cross something off your life goal list, and I train harder-harder-harder to get faster each year! I eat, sleep, breathe this sport!"As mind-boggling as it is, she thinks that in this world of mounting obesity and a medical/financial diabetes crises looming over our collective heads that will bury our health care system, that too many runners do it for the wrong reasons and should just... well... stop. So they don't sully those of us who are real athletes, you know.
So, are there too many marathon runners? No, there aren't. There are too many "chicken nuggets at the end!" marathon runners and not enough "eat, sleep, breathe" runners
As you might have guessed, I take exception to this viewpoint. You see, the most inspiring moments I've ever had at a triathlon have not been watching someone finish first. They've not even been the times I've finished first. They've been standing at the finish line and watching ordinary people finish. Not folks who can throw twenty hours a week of their lives into the "training" bin, not elite competitors gifted with athletic prowess, but ordinary people with families, jobs, small kids, and other responsibilities. Maybe people who have made the arduous journey from obesity to health. Or from anorexia to health. Or just from the couch to health.
I don't have to tell you that I'm a big ol' sap. I mean, I cry reading Frog & Toad stories to my kids. But when I stand at the finish line of a triathlon or a running race and watch what it means to people to finish, the sniffles start. Waterworks on. And when I've coached those people, seen them go from "I don't think I can run to the next block" to "Wow, I just ran 13.1 miles!" or "I'm afraid to put my face in the water" to "I just finished a triathlon with a lake swim!", then I'm really sunk at the finish line. I bawl like a big baby.
You see, we're all on this big ball of rock together. It doesn't really matter if someone's faster than me, or if I'm faster than them. What matters is how I feel about my performance, and how I help others feel about theirs. One thing I can guarantee is that even if you're the fastest now, I mean the absolute fastest in the world, someone will come along eventually who will be younger and faster. We all turn 40 and 50, 60, 70, and 80 some day,if we're lucky. Unless we die first. No one is fastest forever.
Or perhaps you'll have an injury that sidelines you, or you'll get pregnant when you least expect it and decide to just become a recreational athlete, or focus on a career that doesn't allow for so much other activity. Any number of things. Some day, you will probably see things from the point of view of just being happy to finish. And I hope when that day comes, the faster athletes give you a high five instead of saying you don't deserve to be there.