Elite marathoners getting too .. elitist

marathonThe story instantly grabbed my attention:

Some elite marathon runners and coaches are complaining that slowpokes shouldn’t be allowed to run marathons.

Boo! Hiss!

What’s it to them anyway? They, the faster runners, get to start first, ahead of the pack, to ensure the slowpokes don’t get in their way. And once they’re out there running ahead of the field, what possible difference could it make to them if there are hundreds of slower people finishing hours later?

Speaking as one who used to be one of those slowpokes back in the ’70s (in much, much shorter races), it’s not about winning. It’s about personal best times, preparing for and taking on the challenge of that particular race and finishing, no matter my time or style or whether I end up walking or crawling. An athlete and competitor, at least in my own mind, I set my own goals and challenges, and though they may not have seemed like much to the “real” runners in the field, they were huge for me: Don’t quit. Get to the finish line. Don’t finish last.

My biggest “victory” was finishing a notoriously hilly (for Oklahoma) course, without ever slowing to a walk and without finishing last. The top runners, as always, got their recognition from being first, second, or third in their class or age group, posting the best times, getting mentioned in the paper, etc. I felt just as triumphant, driving home utterly exhausted, clutching the T-shirt I’d earned for participating. I, too, was a winner.

The beauty of such races, I always thought, was the camaraderie of the participants, regardless of athletic prowess. We slowpokes were every bit as excited as the elite runners and proud to be in the same race with them. They were our inspiration. We looked up to them.

And just for the record, more than a few top runners have profited nicely from the support and adulation of the masses.

Now they look down their nose at the slowpokes?

My, how times have changed.

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