by JDTaken Jan 9, 2011. The Spirit of the Marathon Sculpture, Our Daily Challenge Standing at the mile one marker of the Boston Marathon, the statue celebrates the achievement in 1946 of famed Greek marathoner Stylianos Kyriakides. Kyriakides narrowly escaped execution during the Nazi occupation of Greece and hadn’t run in six years when he came to Boston. Emaciated from the lack of food in war-torn Greece, he ran against advice of doctors, winning the race in a mythic performance. https://flic.kr/p/98UpoP
JUST BECAUSE EVERY OTHER MARATHON IS DOING IT DOESN'T MEAN IT'S RIGHT Not being aware of the differences between the men’s and women’s races that existed for the past 15 years, the news of the change in the men’s competition this year at Boston came as a sad surprise. The significance of the start times change seems obvious now that it has been pointed out. Apparently, my not ever having run the Boston Marathon, one of the other ‘majors’, or any marathons at all, had rendered me clueless.
Jonathon Beverly, in an article posted by running.competitor.com “New Boston Marathon Rules Kill the Underdog Story” explains the change in the men’s start that will eliminate the possibility of an unknown winning, and why this has not been a possibility for the women for many years.
“The B.A.A quietly revealed this month that instead of a mass start, it will send off a select group of elite men 2 minutes before the first wave of plebes, and only those in the elite field are eligible for prize money. Up to now, the elite men started at the same time as the mass start, so al men from the larger field were awards-eligible (at least the 8,000 or so in the first wave””.
Beverly reports the facts, but his just-beneath-the-surface emotional response to the new reality is what makes the piece worth reading to the very end. That the non-elites won’t be eligible for money prizes is only one consequence of the change. The author of the piece points out that separating the male elites from the first wave masses makes it impossible for an unknown to surge ahead and break the tape at the finish line as in previous years. This outcome is highly unlikely, but its possibility is a tiny bit more thrilling than the new reality. Beverly proposes a way to preserve the “egalitarianism” of road racing in this most historic event, which is heartening and brilliant.
In years past I have proclaimed that running championships, embodied in major marathons which bring competitors together from across the globe, are superior to those of other sports. Especially to those who disparaged running competition sas boring. “What other championship would allow non-professionals on the field of play at the same time as the sport’s best, to compete at the same level, with the possibility that the non-elite could win it all?” I would ask. Are golfers let on the course to compete with those holding a PGA/LPGA tour card? Can recreational league soccer team players take the pitch in the World Cup? It would be ridiculous, surely in these situations. But running is different, I thought and declared, until now.
Jonathon Beverly explains and informs in this article about the elites v underdogs situation that exists in big marathons, and which is a given in other sports’ major championship level competitions. And then he offers a solution that would benefit underdogs in both the men’s and women’s fields.
In my head, the time-worn admonition of parents everywhere helps make a supporting argument. “Just because everyone else is doing it” doesn’t make it right for you (or mean you should do it) are the versions I remember Mom and Dad saying.
The Boston Athletic Association organizers might consider leading rather than following the rest of the sport, in this regard, daring to take inspiration from the city’s “Spirit of the Marathon” statue which commemorates the miraculous 1946 win of a famous underdog runner, Stylianos Kyriakides of Greece.
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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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