A few months ago a college cross-country track coach from New Rochelle College in New York sent shock waves through the running community when she was quoted in aNew York Times article stating anyone finishing a marathon in 6 hours or more was taking away the pride from those completing such a prestigious event in a much shorter time frame.
Thankfully, I did not read the article before I ran my first marathon. I am not too sure how I would have responded or if it would have had any adverse effect on my race. While the coach may not be alone in her thinking, I am sure glad I have not met anyone so righteous when it comes to this sport.
Running a distance many people never dare dream to run, much less train for, is an accomplishment, even if you are the last one to cross the finish line. Someone has to be first and someone has to be last. The race is more than just crossing the finish line–it is putting in days, weeks, months, and yes, even years training every week to reach this goal. It’s about living a dream.
When I first started running I came across a quote that has always held a special meaning for me, long before I even considered running a marathon. It reads– “Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s population will dare to complete the distance of a marathon.” That means 99.9% of the world’s population will not do what many people who run a marathon, no matter their speed, have done–and that is to run a distance of 26.2 miles. These people had to to spend countless hours training for it.That quote was a such huge inspiration that got me through many an early morning training run in the midst of a hot, humid Texas summer.
When I was traveling to Chicago to run my first marathon, I was quite intimidated to see the number of people wearing the gear of previous marathons, especially the creme de la creme of all marathons, Boston. I began to doubt myself as to whether I belonged with these ‘real’ runners, after all I was just a middle-aged, formerly overweight Mom who had no marathon experience under her belt.
But all my fears were quickly allayed when a gentleman traveling to run in his 20th plus marathon in Chicago, in order to qualify for a faster corral position in Boston, said to me, “A true runner has the heart and the soul for the sport which does not have to be proved to anyone else but oneself.” I would like to thank all the Daves of the world who inspire those of us who may not be the fastest, but have the heart to run.
So for all the judgemental coaches in the world and for all the purists in the sport, enjoy finishing your marathon in under 3 hours. Be grateful you will be back at your hotel resting and refueling while all us plodders anxiously wait in the port-a-let lines and get the last medals draped around our necks, only to find the food picked over at the post-run event gathering. Whether you like it or not, we all crossed the same finish line as you and some of the greatest marathoners in the world, as long as we can finished within the allotted time requirements of the race, WE ARE MARATHONERS!
How would you respond to those who believe only the best of the best should be privileged enough to run in an event, even though slower runners can complete the distance in the given time the course is opened? Do these individuals discourage you from living your dream or does it make you more determined to live it?