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December 01, 2009


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Thank you for this post. I am one of the "plodders" who has dreamed of signing up for a marathon but has resisted out of, among other things, fear of being in the way of the "real" runners. It's gratifying to know that the majority of marathoners respect those of us who simply want to aspire to a goal that seems impossible, and feel the rush of pride and accomplishment that comes with crossing the finish line.


Sadly, Jeff, it's not just the marathons. I participated in a 10K "fun run" (Santa Monica Gobble Wobble) this past weekend where being at the back of the pack was anything but "fun." Despite keeping up a respectable walking pace of 15 minutes/mile, cones were repeatedly picked up in front of us and we were pushed to the sidewalk to mix it up with the Saturday morning kids and dogs out for strolls. Inappropriate jokes were also made by the emcee about the last runners over the line (happy it wasn't me). I noticed that the event organizers are triathletes. It appears that elitism is alive and well on the fun run circuit, too.


How you could possibly differentiate between those who are serious marathoners and those who just do it for the accomplishment.

Case in point: myself
-I was a high school and collegiate runner, with respectable PR's of 4:09 for 1500m, 9:06 for 3k, and 15:30 for 5k
-My first marathon was a sub 3:10 effort as a 20-year-old male, during my collegiate career. (As a 15:30 5k runner, a 'serious' effort would've been around 2:40.)
-I had averaged only about 25 miles per week for the six months prior. Not nearly a 'serious' training regime.
-I walked about a minute of each mile from 20-25 miles, and about half of the final mile. Not very serious.
-I was carrying a disposable camera for my first marathon (RNR in SD) and stopping to take pictures with people along the way. I also ran to the side to give hugs to my supporters twice along the route. Not very serious.
-My fondest memory of the race was a picture with my back to the balloon-arch "Wall" that was set up at mile 20; as runners went by, I was simply standing there posing for a picture.

Does my time merely make me a serious runner because I was a little more gifted to be able to run sub 3:10 without any real training and without running the entire time? Or how about my second and third marathons, where I probably ran a total of 50 miles in the three months leading up to them, and made it to about 13-15 miles of continuous running, then ran/walked the remainder... my finishing times of around 4:00-4:30 are still very respectable, but not nearly 'serious' by any stretch of the imagination. Yet most who finish that fast could still be considered 'serious.'

Preaching to the choir a little here, but I believe a 'serious' marathoner is ANYBODY who undertakes the task of trying to accomplish the 26.2 miles. And I can tell you that my first comments to anybody considering a marathon are all about the sense of accomplishment I felt from FINISHING the great distance.

Probably the most important fact in all of this is the historical significance of the event. A man who was worn and tired from messenging and battle rose up to carry a message of extreme national importance, to the point of utter exhaustion and ultimately death. But the message got through. So, too, does everybody who now shakes off the exhaustion of life and embarks on the 26.2 mile journey.

From the 12 willing participants in the first organized marathon in 1896, to the now over 400,000 who finish in the US alone... each one deserves the recognition that they finished. Phidippides accomplishment was remembered by the saving of a country; the rest of us get a t-shirt and a medal. To each his own.


Thank you, Jeff. I expressed a similar reaction back on October 25th in this post on SpryFeet.com: http://www.spryfeet.com/2009/10/25/only-the-top-three-marathoners-need-apply/


Thank you, thank you for saying exactly what I was thinking...in such a succinct, effective and intelligent way. As a "plodder" we appreciate you standing up for our efforts and achievements. - Heather


Outstanding response to a mean-spirted NY Times article.

When I told my friend Jay that I'd like to run a marathon, he gave me your book. That inspired me that I could do it. I completed Houston in 2008 with a back of the pack time.

In 2009 I trained more and returned and improved my time by more than an hour to 5:05. And I'm training this year for an even faster time on Jan. 17, 2010.

Here's to the Finishers!! "Better to dare mighty things..."

Shawn Swafford

Wow! I didn't even know this was a debate. It seems so unnecessary. If a race wants to be for the "elite", they can do it -- just up the qualifying times. But to say non-elites are not marathoners?

I ran my first marathon about 23 years ago at the tender age of 27 and ran it in 4:10. I probably could have had a better time. But I ran the first half with my 50 something year old mother who had just taken up running only a year or two before. I wouldn't even share this article with her and denigrate her accomplishment. Or my wife who took up running after we got married and did her 2nd marathon in Big Sur for a Leukemia Society fund raising event. (In fact, I think Jeff Galloway did the kickoff for that back in '95 or '96 in Macon -- or at least I remember getting a signed book at an event in Macon.)

Can't they just satisfy themself with being an "elite" marathoner and not denigrate the other 99.99% of the population who are really out there for no other purpose than just to run?

Account Deleted

I think what the article was referring more to was effort. I think if someone is trying their hardest and doing their best and still takes 7 hours to complete the race, then we all should be shouting at that finish line for them.
The article acts like their is an epidemic of not slow runners, but people out for a casual walk that just want to say that they did it. I think that is flat wrong. I've done two marathons and been a part of 3 others (did the Detroit 1/2, instead of the full). I never saw anyone who was looking like they were their to slack. Everyone was nervous, focused, excited, and ready. This op ed is just whiney and was able to find a couple of statistics to support their whine.

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