Why do people run marathons?
I don’t get marathons. I mean, I get why people run them (a variety of reasons; health, competition, a sense of accomplishment), but I still can’t wrap my head around why they exist. One could argue that they’re a nostalgic look back in time to Greek history, but I really don’t think my friends that have run them are really looking to connect with their ancestry, if they are even Greek to begin with. I have a lot of friends that run in marathons and when the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon rolled through San Antonio, I found myself pondering the whole idea.
For me, running is a chore. It’s something I do in my nightmares or when an axe-wielding maniac is chasing me. I do not associate running with fun. At all. For me, running is also a painful endeavor. I’ve been blessed with shin splints that feel as if someone is tearing the flesh from my calves with a rusty spoon. Running equals pain and pain equals no fun…it’s a simple formula really.
Despite my inclination to enjoy the armchair, people flock to marathons in droves. They not only get up early in the morning to run, but they pay money for the privilege of doing so. Paying to run. My head hurts trying to grasp the concept. It just doesn’t make sense to my non-athletic brain. I can totally understand people’s desire to achieve something and am rather proud of my friends who do it often and those who set a goal to do it for one reason or another. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t truly comprehend what compels them to think this is a good idea.
But it’s not the marathon runners I’m most curious about.
Even more perplexing to me though, are the people who don’t run and still participate. The people on the side of the road with signs and water and a healthy dose of encouragement. They’re everywhere during a marathon. Some are there to cheer on their Aunt Sally who just won a long bout with cancer or are cheering on their dad who made up his mind to get healthy a year ago, but there are tons of people who just show up simply because.
We love to cheer people on, it’s why professional sports are able to exist. We love to watch people compete and pick a favorite to win. We cheer, drink beer, and get a little rowdy. It’s part of the collective human experience. With marathons though, there isn’t the same sense of a clear winner (even thought people do come in first) and unless you’re at the finish line, you may not even see who the winner is. Yet, at marathons all over the world, they are there. With signs and banners, drinks and noisemakers, high-fives and encouragement. What compels someone to stand on the side of the road for hours, cheering on strangers? I can’t say I understand it, but I have to admit, I do like it. It’s the good side of human nature – charity to strangers when they need a little boost. A simple “way to go, you can do it” when all the runner probably wants to do is sit down and have a few cold ones. It’s the ultimate in kindness and caring I think. I may not understand it, but I do think it’s kind of cool that someone would do it.
So go on crazy banner man in the chicken outfit. Do your thing and cheer on those marathon runners! I can’t say I’ll join you, but I will lift my ice cold beer to you in support.
image courtesy of Stijlphoto