Monday, August 18, 2008

The Marathon is The Olympics

As I watch the women's marathon, it occurs to me that, more than any other event, The marathon's absence would make the Olympics seem like the Olympics light. Here, to finish first one must first finish. As I watch Dina Caster from the U.S. drop out from a foot injury, and the favorite Paula Ratcliffe from Britain, from the last Olympics collapsing in an emotional heap a scant 4 miles from the finish, suddenly the idea that Michael Phelps' run in with a pair of leaky goggles was anything close to being worthy of the term "courageous" seems ludicrous. Try to imagine Phelps (who has indeed earned his superstar status), a few meters from the finish, breaking down physically or emotionally and being unable to get there on his own power, and you start understanding what sets the marathon apart.

The marathon is everything the Olympics should be, courage, training, athletic ability, dedication, discipline, and passion. There are no judges to award victory based on frivolous aesthetics, no referees to soil the competition with amateurish errors, and no rules so complicated an interested viewer could watch the entire competition and have no idea who won. It is the runners, and the course, and little else. It has the most romantic story associated with it, and of course the most interesting history of how it came to be the distance it is.

Long live the marathon, and a toast to everyone who competes in it.


Harriet said...

Just a comment: I agree with you about the marathon. But there are a couple of similar events:

the 50K racewalk where the walkers must not only finish the 31 mile event, but they must obey strict racewalking rules (not easy to do).

I've finished dozens of marathons (both as a walker and as a slow runner (3:33 is my best)) but I got DQ'ed at 23 miles of my 50K racewalk attempt.

Also there is the 10K swim this year, and that is very similar in duration to the marathon. But there is one difference: in the swim, you either finish or drown. :-) There is no walking it in!
(ok, there are lifeguards)

Devans00 said...

I love watching marathons and triathlons for the same reasons. To even attempt the event means that the athlete is already a finely tuned physical specimen. No one within spitting distance of being a couch potato participates.

The other reason is the psychological aspects. People who have no logical reason to keep going push through and accomplish amazing thing. It makes you know that deep inside of every human is probably a primal animal who can do wondrous things.

The last reason is watching human whippets who barely seem winded after running or swimming/biking/running over 20 miles. Some actually can sprint to the finish. Gosh.