Oldie but a goodie.  Found this 1991 chestnut.

fat-runnerPhone rings not long back. Guy on the other end pushing the idea of a Clydesdale category in the Boston Marathon (over 200 pounds / 90 kg).  Says at 6’3″ and 220 pounds he represents the Clydesdale Runners Association, runners born more gravitationally stable than the average Doheny that jogs about. While I’m trying to figure out how he got my number, he begins this “It-isn’t-fair, we’ve-been-discriminated-against” diatribe, stemming from the unreasonably harsh qualifying standards for big people at the Boston Marathon.

So I’m thinking, ‘whoa, slow down big fella’. There aren’t any handicaps in running outside those imposed by God. That’s what makes it passably acceptable, every man Jack for himself, whoever gets there first wins, meritocracy in its purest form. We start getting into handicapping for size next thing you know some group demands style points be awarded by past members of the B.A.A. board of governors. That’s all we need. Then what, synchronized running? If swimming can keep its lunch down with that lab experiment, fine, but what say we try to keep Dippidy Doo and nose clips off the roads (not to mention past members of the B.A.A. board).

All this while Clyde is flipping through his legal brief in support of special dispensation. And in short order it dawns on me, this guy is serious.

Mr. Ed, listen. Why do you want to get involved in this, anyway? Jeez, feel blessed. Need I remind you, this is running you are talking about here, the sport of dufes, geeks, and hand-to-eye spazoids. Now there’s a crowd to feel discriminated by, huh? All you ever had to do is watch Bill Rodgers play one game of volleyball – or for God sakes ever see Carl Lewis approximate Tinker Bell with a basketball – and this notion of great athlete dries up faster than yesterday’s cheese on today’s back deck.

But this horse is in stride, and keeps pouring all these tables and charts and calibrations.

“…and 1% of people under 40 years of age but over 215 pounds who run a marathon in less time than it takes NASA to launch a shuttle”…and…”it’s an insult to us heavier runners, because lighter people can throw running the Boston Marathon up in our face, yet we could, pound for pound, be better athletes.”

Clydesdale Assoc.Realize now this fellow admitted to 6’3″ and tipped the scales at 220. Why, exactly, is he taking crap from 140-pound shrunken chest types is beyond me.

“What do you mean, “lighter people can throw running the Boston Marathon up in your face?” Weren’t any of you  older brothers once? The second some scrawny thin-clad gets a little high and mighty and starts throwing anything in your face, just squeeze him till his ear wax pops out. Clear that problem up right now.

OK. First of all, stop bitching. Did Bobbi Gibb whine and moan that women weren’t allowed in the Boston Marathon back in 1966? Did Kathrine Switzer go all doughy when Jock Semple tried to rip her number off in `67? Or did they prove they belonged by getting out there and showing what women could do?

I know, it’s like you think all these Boston Marathon qualifying times have been Frankenstinianly masterminded in the B.A.A. basement laboratory to screw you over. Just a reminder, seen any of those MacArthur genius grants coming into the B.A.A. offices lately? (remember, this was 1991)  Exactly. So remember, destiny isn’t something you hang around and wait for, it’s something you grab by the scruff and drag back to your stall.

Think “Rollerball”, the old James Caan movie.   So hide in the bushes out about 200 yards from the starting line in Hop-town ala Ms. Gibb in `66. Then just as the cameras are focusing on the Nike tribespeople discussing T-bill rates at 4:45 pace, turn that first mile into a full-contact zone with the skinny kids in the role of the ball. Just wait till a couple of you lead-footed Clydesdales named Rumble or Rhino, regular American Gladiators, run amok unannounced among the malnourished. Media interest would beef up instantly. You can just see the next morning’s headlines: BIG GUYS POUND DUST OUT OF FAST LITTLE FREAKS. INTEREST IN NFL  FOOTBALL PLUMMETS!

“Slow twitch this, you little twerp (BWAAAAANG!),” said the hefty, first mile scene-stealer as he dribbled the lead pack into Ashland.

You’d actually be doing the event a favor. Honest. People around the planet are tired of watching ultralights fly about unimpeded. Notwithstanding the fine folks they are, it has all become a tad too predictable. So let’s toss a little Minute Man muscle into the mix. The sport could use a little adrenal wash for a change. I mean, where is the animosity, the chippiness, the pungent smell of panic? Sure, America is immersed in violence, but here’s one place a little would go a long way. You run best colon-clamped scared anyway, right? Like urban fartlek. So you’d actually be doing the little guys a favor (sorta).

Watch those TV ratings soar.  You thought those first miles were run fast in the late 1980’s? The tiny tots up front would really have to turn the screw tight coming off the line to get away now. Then maybe those miles over the hills in Newton would start getting interesting again when it became time to pay the piper for that early survival.

Okay, so it was only an idea. But it makes you wonder. Maybe you big fellas are the sport’s salvation. So giddy-yup you Clydesdales.



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  3. What is a man that stands 6’8 and a trim 304lbs get classified as in a marathon?
    having completed 18 of 26.2’ers and 100+ 13 milers- I always stick out at least in the new millenium I am not quite alone. Of course running Marine Corps 1988- I felt like I was Gulliver…..

  4. If we are goingto handicap marathons, wouldn’t it be wiser simply to become a sprinter. Yo, Usain, give me a 90m lead and let’s throw down.

  5. my (track and distance running brothers – biologically) were dominant athletes at our high school and colleges – at all the ‘major sports’) and excelled (in track )on a local regional and national level We chose track because it was more appealing in a number of ways. We saved our other sport exploits for weekends and invited pick-up games. We played against the likes of Sam Cunningham, Keith (Jamal Wilkes and others.) So Cal was a great place to learn and display athleticism and competence. Don’t use Carl Lewis as an example as we all know hoe he ‘throw’ a baseball and sings the national anthem. While not the rule there are numerous exceptions to the myth that you falsely and blindly espouse. Of the mark on this one pardner.

    1. Brian,

      I wasn’t being serious in the least. It was just a fun column I ran across from many years ago after watching Carl shoot a basketball and having had that phone call from the Clydesdale fellow. And since King Carl was often voted Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, it was an easy target. I know many unbelievable athletes of size. But it’s horses for courses, and the marathon doesn’t lend itself at the top end to our mesomorph and endomorph friends. BTW, that was quite a group you guys hung out with back in the day!


    1. Tim, playing me would hardly prove your point at this stage in the muster, but I recognize — and tip my cap — to the many exceptions to every rule. All in good fun. Thanks for reading.

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