Hats off to the marathoners!
in today's New York Times
asks the question whether marathons are worthy of the name and the mystique surrounding the effort required to complete them when a substantial number of people don't run them fast, quite a few barely run them at all, and one or two people have (reportedly) stopped for lunch on the way round the course! "That's not racing," lament the elite runners who've trained all year, "that's just going out for a stroll."
As someone who's run four marathons, all between 3:30 and 4:00 hours, I'm hardly elite. I'm squarely in the middle of local class
. However, I'm regularly in the top 10 to 15 percent of runners—if only because there are lots of runners slower than I am. So I rely on the slower runners to make me feel
"elite"! I only get miffed when I find myself in the early stages of a race having to weave around runners who've overestimated their speed, and the corral system based on time has generally weeded out this problem.
In the end, I can't really see what the fuss is about. I may enjoy setting goals to be better than people in my age group, but in reality I'm only in competition with myself. I've had enough 75- and 80-year-olds beating my time to know that I've got plenty of room for improvement, irrespective of what I might think about those who come in at five- or six-hour pace. You run your race, not anybody else's. As long as you don't get in anyone's way, who cares what time you do it in?