Comment of the Day: “Annoying and Ill-Timed Tangential Issue Dept.: There’s Nothing Especially Virtuous About Running A Marathon”

Here is a helpful Comment of the Day from Rich Page, providing important perspective to the issue of marathoning and marathoners. I am especially grateful for comments like these, which add leavening to posts that can be a little more jarring than I intend, even though I know exactly how they will be taken when I post them. 

I didn’t want to get too deep into all the many reasons people run, so what was intended as an observation about many marathon and running enthusiasts could have been taken as a knock on running for fun, for example. Fun is important; fun is natural; fun is grand. I think fun is a wonderful reason to do anything. I do a lot of things just for fun, and always have—luckily, I find my various jobs fun, all of them. 

Rich’s post balances mine perfectly, and makes it whole and better. As to the timing—I agree, I wish I could have “hung it on a different hook,” and perhaps I should have waited for another one, since I have been waiting a while as it is.Perhaps my rule should be that if I can’t conceive of any graphic or photo that won’t risk being offensive to a lot of readers, that’s a strong indication that I should postpone the topic to another day.

This is the Comment of the Day on “Annoying and Ill-Timed Tangential Issue Dept.: There’s Nothing Especially Virtuous About Running A Marathon”:

“My family and I normally watch the Boston Marathon from about the halfway point, at around mile 14. It’s kind of a “people’s marathon.” It brings out communities and there is always an air of celebration surrounding the event. We particularly enjoy cheering on the non-elite runners. They seem to have a different stake in the race. Thousands of them run for charity — Dana Farber and Children’s Hospital are always well-represented, as are numerous other worthy causes. Many runners are on the course to honor the memory of someone they’ve lost or about whom they care deeply. And the participation of these runners matters a lot to the institutions that benefit from their support.

“I also know people who run because the challenge focuses them on overcoming something — alcohol addiction, injury or a lost sense of self, to name the ones I most commonly hear about. As such, the run is about about recovering a part of themselves, and establishing a new normal. That may be self-indulgent, but the support they clearly receive from families and friends suggests that the accomplishment is often a shared one, bigger than the individual. Many of the people who were injured yesterday appear to have been at the finish line to support a family member in what should have been a celebration.

“Many, many clearly run for fun. There was someone yesterday on stilits, another runner dressed as a cheesbrger, and several women in tutus. As I said, it’s a people’s marathon, once you get past the relatively small hard core group.

“Most people I know who were in the race or anywhere near Copley Square are glad to be alive, period. I am aware of runners who are disappointed that they did not accomplish their goal yesterday. I am not aware of anyone who thinks that that doesn’t pale in comparison to the tragedy at the finish line. Many runners did not have cell service and didn’t find out until hours later what happened. It took them time to process what happened, maybe even several hours after they returned home safely.

“What people are experiencing today is not what they were experiencing yesterday. We’ve had employees in our offices who were fine when they got to work and suddenly – to their astonishment — broke down crying or confessed to being extremely depressed. And all of our attitudes are changing as we collectively learn more about the extent of the carnage. Perhaps it is not too much to cut everyone a little slack this new reality starts to take shape around us.

“Your post this morning took issue with an attitude — not necessarily held by all Boston Marathon runners — that there is inherent virtue in extreme sports. I get that. But you were right to note up front that your timing was probably not good. It seems that most of the runners in Boston weren’t really the ones you were writing about. Perhaps this post might have been hung on a different hook.”

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