The democratization of the marathon

posted by Jason Kottke Sep 22, 2006

Marathon runners, remember this name: Gabriel Sherman. Mr. Sherman runs marathons (6!) but doesn't want you to run in any, believing that you slow johnnys-come-lately to the scene have ruined the marathon:

Among autumn's sporting rituals there is one tradition that fills me with mounting dread: the return of marathon season. If you've been to the gym or attended a cocktail party recently, you know what I mean. Chances are you've bumped into a newly devoted runner who's all too happy to tell you about his heart-rate monitor and split times and the looming, character-building challenge of running 26.2 miles. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a slovenly couch potato who abhors exercise. I'm an avid runner with six marathons under my New Balance trainers. But this growing army of giddy marathon rookies is so irksome that I'm about ready to retire my racing shoes and pick up bridge.

Several people I know have either run a marathon or are training for an upcoming one and, while it may sound trite, the experience has made them better people in a way that the "elevated sense of self-worth" that Mr. Sherman sniffs about in the article doesn't begin to describe. (What's more, those that have run a marathon are training smartly to beat their previous time.) Mr. Sherman rightly notes the health problems that running a marathon holds for the ill-prepared, but why exclude from a marathon people who are avid, well-trained runners who happen to be slow? Why should the almighty institution of The Marathon™ be more important than the people running in it? And why doesn't he want more people to enjoy a sport that he loves? Should we implore Mr. Sherman to stop writing because he's ruining journalism with his shallow, insubstantial articles? Hell no! Keep writing, Mr. Sherman...we'll keep reading in the hopes that you'll one day improve and recognize the importance of, every once in awhile, doing something for which you're not ideally suited because you *want* to.