Or, why the Boston Marathon should be given more attention in the USA!
LET ME GET IT SAID UP FRONT; I’VE NEVER RUN, ATTEMPTED TO RUN, OR TRAINED FOR A MARATHON. I’m a fan, having spent a little over 40 years running and occasionally competing in small-ish, lesser distance races. The higher profile events that I have run include a RunDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend 5K (the only race in which registration was still open) and the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K.
But that makes me a perfect spectator and fan. I’ve got enough experience to appreciate the rigors of training and anticipation of challenge, have traveled far to toe the line (okay several waves back and hundreds of places deep); taken off with a mass of other hopeful runners at the start signal. And I’ve finished, surprised and giddy when placing first, second, or third in my age division in a few local events.
Watching the 2018 Boston Marathon I was primed for an unexpected or thrilling outcome. As in the rest of the outdoor-competed, sporting event world, bad weather can change everything. The field of American and international elites this year was super packed with contenders, each capable of wearing the laurel wreath. I told the family of my plan to record it, wanting to capture history if it was made in any of the events.
Afterward I was describing the wins of Des Linden, Yuki Kawauchi, Tatyana McFadden, and Marcel Hug to my husband, who is relatively unaware when it comes to running. He’s a golfer and totally gets into watching the big tournaments on TV. Trying to relate how crazily amazing the Boston Marathon was, I attempted to relate it to golf’s and other sports’ major championship-level competitions.
That started the wheels turning in my brain. Marathons in which the world’s elite runners agree to compete are unlike any other sport competition of the best of the best. And Boston is the jewel race, with the history and tradition of being the first in 1897 to follow the example of the modern 1896 Olympics signature event.
Below are 6 reasons why major marathons, with the Boston race leading the pack, are unique among championship sports competitions*:
1. Runners of any country can enter, although they need to qualify by time. Marathons are truly international competitions, every time they’re competed.
2. Elite women and men compete in the same event, under same conditions, although in separate groups with slightly different start times. Non-elites run together.
3. A field of very talented plus not-so-talented amateur non-elite participants competes nearly at the same time on the same course, and potentially can become overall winners with the best time.
4. Each competitor ‘plays’ the entire multi-hour event, exerting elite-level effort over the race’s duration, without lulls or breaks.
5. Race start times are not arranged to accommodate media coverage. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t have the chance to watch. Boston’s Monday event is a holiday of the people of Massachusetts! Even though that weekday morning slot may hurt event television ratings.
6. Marathons have embraced competition by persons with significant challenges, adding events for wheelchair and physically impaired athletes of both genders. Boston was first to hold a wheelchair event.
What’s hard to understand is that so many high-profile people in the US who run for fitness and enjoyment, who proudly call themselves runners, but who don’t rejoice in the spirit of the Boston Marathon. Our country was first in the world in organizing this kind of competition. Why don’t we make it a big deal?
How would everyday golfers react if allowed to play behind the professionals on a championship course just minutes after the tournament started? Or women, men, and physically challenged recreational league players if they could take the football field, soccer pitch, baseball diamond, or hockey ice at the Super Bowl, World Cup, World Series, Stanley Cup playoffs?
Ridiculous of course, because logistics and common sense argue against this move. But that’s why US runners might consider celebrating Boston’s Marathon, and Chicago’s and New York’s as well others with a bit more appreciation. We welcome and host the world at these events regardless of gender or physical challenges.
Major marathons are unique and inclusive championship events; Boston leads them all.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
* I attempted to verify that all the world major marathons had all the characteristics described. It wasn't possible to find that information in a timely fashion. Please provide specific corrections if you think there are terrible inaccuracies. Thanks. PKS
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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