Marathons and Plodders: Why Not?

I didn’t run this morning. I went around and around in a circle for 50 minutes on the elliptical trainer instead. But I expect I’ll hit the concrete Saturday and Sunday for my early a.m. running tour of the neighborhood.

00000116A_0654I’d rather be in New York Sunday — running the New York City Marathon with some 40,000 others. I gave up on that idea about 10 years ago. Why? Well, a couple reasons.

For me, training for a marathon became too difficult. Trying to build mileage to the point where you were spending your weekends (or weekdays) doing 15-mile or longer runs before the race was just too much.

The run itself — for most people like me — is difficult. Let’s face it. You get to 20 miles — and you still have a 10K to go.

And after completing three marathons (Columbus, Marine Corps and Pittsburgh) now more than 20 years ago, I didn’t want to take the chance of finishing near the end of the pack — or not finishing at all. Not everyone shares that concern — nor should they.

To finish a marathon under four hours, you have to maintain a pace of about 9 minutes a mile. Last year, according to an article in the NYT, 44 percent of the runners in the Honolulu Marathon finished in more than six hours — with some stopping to have lunch along the way. Woot.

In New York, last year about 20 percent of the field finished in more than five hours — and the race officially ends at 6:30 (although the timing will continue past the eight hour mark).

So what? Well apparently this is becoming  an issue among race directors and marathoners — pitting the so-called hard-core runners against the runners against the joggers against the walkers and so on. Here’s from the NYT article by Juliet Macur, “Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?“:

Every weekend during this fall marathon season, long after most runners have completed the 26.2-mile course — and very likely after many have showered, changed and headed for a meal — a group of stragglers crosses the finish line.

Many of those slower runners, claiming that late is better than never, receive a finisher’s medal just like every other participant. Having traversed the same route as the fleeter-footed runners — perhaps in twice the amount of time — they get to call themselves marathoners.

And it’s driving some hard-core runners crazy.

“It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours,” said Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984. “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’ ”

“How low is the bar?” I won’t pretend to have an answer to that — if there even is one. People run a marathon — or pick any distance, running or walking — for a variety of reasons. And I’ve always considered these events to be a celebration of life — of setting a goal and working toward accomplishing it. Beyond the elite runners, you’ll see a lot of smiles and a lot of personal stories unfolding among the thousands who work their way through Central Park to the finish line on Sunday, regardless of the time on the clock.

In my three marathons, I finished in 4:05, 4:11 and 4:28 (give or take a few seconds). So maybe that qualifies me as a plodder. Who knows?

What I do know is that I would love to have the opportunity — and stamina, mental and physical — to run another marathon.

So good luck to all who are running the New York Marathon Sunday.

And unless you’re getting paid for the 26.2 mile self-propelled trip through the Big Apple, don’t worry about the time.

In the long run it doesn’t matter.



3 responses to “Marathons and Plodders: Why Not?

  1. The Vegan Anti-Hero

    Well said.

  2. Thank for share this.

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