Too Cool Runnings
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According to a breaking report from NPR, “a record number of Americans are running marathons,” and the “popularity is actually a bit of a pain for the sport.”
What isn’t included in the report is whether this “bit of a pain” is more or less serious than the certain death we’re all about to face from the side effects of sitting too long, according to this study also currently making the rounds. What does remain clear, however, is that the cheerful all-inclusiveness of running HAS. GONE. TOO. FAR.
“The belief that anyone can run a marathon is a mantra in running circles,” NPR sniffs. “And it seems that almost everyone is.”
I mean, back in Pheidippides’ day, running a marathon meant lacing up your strappiest sandals and launching yourself to Athens sans electrolytes, power gels or wicking togas. Oh yeah, and then dutifully perishing once you reached your destination. Now, that was authenticity.
But today, NPR laments, “What was once an act of rare heroism is now sort of common.” I mean, really—even this sorority girl is training for a marathon, and she’s been running less than a year. I bet she thinks she’s pretty cool, raising money for a close friend with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Wait. What? How is this a “bit of a pain” again?
Kudos to NPR for managing to come off like a jaded hipster about the accessibility of something as unmistakably dorky as distance running. What confuses me most about “Marathons, Once Special, Are Now Crowded,” though, is the smug implication that marathoners, particularly Boston elites, would prefer to keep the club small. Kind of unexpected for a group of people with a shared mantra that “anyone can run a marathon,” right?
Sure, let the fastest runners fret that they might be shut out of the race by the record number of qualifiers. But worrying that as “mainstream America joins the race, amateurs will dilute Boston’s prestige,” is just lame. Especially since 20% of the Boston marathon slots have always been open to those raising money for charity. Sweet Christ, burn your certificates and medals! They’ll be meaningless once “the slows” take over!
Yes, NPR, everyone can do it, including a record-breaking number of women. It’s easy to get started. It’s virtually free (if you don’t count pizza bills or the occasional race fee). And provided you breeze past the showy extravagance of Gear Guide #1 and #2, it doesn’t even require specialized equipment. But isn’t that what makes it great??
On second thought, while we’re complaining about the slow-moving hordes of “normals” clogging up our nation’s marathons, can I just take a moment to salute Johann Rettenberger for doing his level best to Keep Running Weird?
Here’s the kind of elite runner I can get behind—in the 1980s, Rettenberger was the most wanted criminal in Austria for robbing numerous banks in succession wearing a Ronald Reagan mask. That is, robbing banks when he wasn’t out WINNING MARATHONS.
Finally, someone found a purpose for running! Relax, NPR—it’s not convincing yourself you’ve done something meaningful or special—it’s RUNNING AWAY FROM CRIMES AND INSPIRING AWESOME MOVIES.
Check it out!