Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Marathon is Not For Everyone

The following is an excerpt from Runners' Books and Smart Ware which was the title of a catalogue put out by John L.Parker's Cedarwinds Publishing Co. The date for this catalogue was Winter 1997-98.As mentioned the other day,the best feature of these catalogues was that they always included an article by Parker.To provide a little background on the excerpt you are about to read, he relates his impressions on aspiring marathoners after reading John Krakauer's book,Into Thin Air, which gives an account of some ill-equipped novices who attempted to scale Mt.Everest and ending up dying in the process. I should also add that Parker is not a fan of the trend that was quite popular at the time,and may still be,of taking a person who runs very little and having them do a marathon within a year or less. Those who promoted this like Jeff Galloway and others, encouraged people to try it with the inference being that in doing so it would be a kind of transcending,be all, end all experience John writes: "Absent from some pre-existing medical condition, very few people will die attempting to run a marathon,but for many their effort will be every bit the fool's errand of those Everest climbers. They will buy the books,hire the coaches,join the groups,learn the latest techniques for carbo-loading or pre-race hydration. They will consider the "walking break" approach. They will follow the Galloway Method or the Henderson Method. They will do all of this with one goal in mind: surviving a marathon.Many of them will hardly consider or cede much importance to events of lesser distance. There is,apparently,no spiritual transcendence to be had overcoming obstacles not sufficiently imposing to the man on the street. Hardly anyone brags at a cocktail party about "finishing a 10k" anymore than a novice would set out to climb K2,the second highest peak in the world; no cachet,you see,no dining out for the rest of your days on such a non-brand name achievement(when compared to Everest). I would be the first to cheer would-be marathoners if their first event was a stepping stone to a well-rounded life of health consciousness,continuing fitness or regular participation in athletics. But so many of these efforts follow a well-worn pattern: months of intense effort,family disruption,happily lost weight,unhappily acquired injuries and fatigue,followed by the final,cathartic Event. Then after that,nothing. Once the merit badge is metaphorically sewn into place and the conquest rendered into a picture on the mantle,the great quest no longer resonates. Finishing a marathon now represents another ticket punched in a long life of restless accomplishment. Surely,you know them. Those energetic friends,relatives perhaps. Hell,Oprah's done it. And that all strikes me as a pretty fair prescription for becoming what might be called a spiritual dilettante(or amateur). Aspiring to be one in the marathon,while certainly not the unworthiest activity I can think of, is also surely not a direct path to enlightenment or even a more robust life." John really nails it in this article. It is so unfortunate that the majority of people described above give up on running after it is all over.

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