There was a time when running a marathon was seen as big achievement. Before WWII there were no many popular marathon races besides the Olympics and Boston Marathon. In the 1960s the best marathon was in Fukuoka, but it was an elite race, with the best Japanese runners and some athletes invited from overseas.
In the inaugural New York City Marathon in 1970 there were only 55 finishers. As in most races, they struggled to get permissions to use the roads, had a modest budget and not enough runners to make it profitable.
Taking advantage of the United States running boom in the 1970s, New York marathon grew larger, reaching the 1500 finishers in 1976, the first time the race went through its five boroughs. From then on, the growth was unstoppable, until surpassing the 50000 finishers of the last edition. A similar growth in finishers numbers extended worlwide.
The question that arises is: is running a marathon something to be proud of or not? To answer this question I will follow 2 recent articles, where authors shared their point of view, and reasons to defend his idea.
Eldar Saraljic says that running for 42k is not for the weak, as it requires psychological and physical strength, and success is not guaranteed. Nevertheless: is it a virtue we should praise?
A marathon is a physical activity, and as such we don´t usually give praise to people for doing other physical activities. As a competitive sport, maybe we should only give praise to the winner.
His conclusion is that running a marathon, without a cause, has nothing socially valuable about it. Many calories, a lot of effort and a long time spent that could be used in something more useful.
All the response we should give to someone running a marathon is: “Good FOR YOU, my friend”.
Simone Gozzano contradicts Sarajlic, and think that he is missing the point behind running a marathon. He agrees that is necessary willpower to overcome “the wall”, when the body runs out of carbohydrates to work properly.
Philippides run from Marathon to Athens, dying shortly after giving his announcement. It was not a self-regarding act. Nowadays running a marathon is obviously a different story: “it sets an example that is good for all”.
A professional marathoner has to train beyond the limits of other runners. Think about the amount of kilometres some of the best marathoners run every week. Eliud Kipchoge for example runs around 180k per week. It represents the ultimate level of determination.
And what about non-professional runners? It takes them also a lot of time, but demonstrate that is a feasible achievement, encouraging others to follow suit.
The training sessions and races contribute to make new acquaintances. People also become conscious of their willpower, which will be available for other activities in life. It also offers health benefits, as sports practice is related with a lower presence of many diseases, contributes to reduce pollution, as people tend to walk more, and raise self-awareness.
His praise for someone running a marathon? “Well done, my friend!”
From oneKmore we obviously support Gozzano´s point of view, but with whom you position yourself? We would like to know your opinion in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
Is running a marathon a virtue?
Think 17(48):101-105, 2018.
The virtue of running a marathon
Think 18(52): 69-74, 2019.