WHY RUN MARATHONS? POINT – COUNTERPOINT

Hello, hello, hello, hello.

So we got ourselves another big marathon coming up this weekend in New York City, 50,000 strong going the distance through all five boroughs.

Ok, maybe it is perverse, but through fire comes cleansing.  And the marathon is fire enough for most. Strange as it may sound, bizarre though it may look, through all the discomfort of running 26.2 miles comes a healing that marks the marathon like no other sporting event. Through its winding miles and colorful crowds, the event has proven to be a unifying thread that ties a city together that all too often is famed for its impersonal diversity.

Out in Los Angeles, another of America’s great diverse metropolises, it seems every time the city found itself in a time of need, whether after fire, flood, or civil unrest, the marathon somehow came up, providentially, on the calendar to return hope and lend a sense of unity and goodwill.  And, of course, the Boston Marathon is famous, not just for the horrific finish-line bombing in 2013, but for its miraculous resurrection and embrace of 2014.  This weekend that spirit and purpose are again being called to duty at the TCS New York City Marathon just as it was in 2001.

TCS New York City Marathon crowds

Time and time again, the simple act of stripping thousands of people down to a pair of shorts and a singlet, pinning a race number on their chest, and channeling them 26.2 miles from point A to point B has simultaneously stripped away all the biases and differences that heretofore had come to define them. Amidst the rollicking throngs that annually meet to run through the most diverse marathon course in America, neither a Democrat nor Republican could you identify, Christian or Jew, Muslim or heathen.

Instead the marathon in New York, like every major city marathon before it, has discovered that by challenging people with a task at the far end of their capability, yet still within their grasp, it could help them transcend the hard lines of religion, politics, and economic station that differentiate them on every other day, and in so doing, set the once-vaunted American melting pot back to boil.

That is quite a trick to pull off in today’s world of identity politics and hardline Us-versus-Them encampments. But the very simple act of running has proven capable of this assimilation, while the city and its people have responded enthusiastically as if in answer to a call from their own better angels.

*

COUNTERPOINT

Let me ask you a question: Tell me why? That’s right, why do people still run marathons?

People, if a salesman knocked on your door and offered to sell you something that would make your toenails fall off and your nipples bleed for $375, what would you do?  You’d kick him in the ass with your good toenails, that’s what!

“Get outta here! What are you, nuts?”

But somehow if folks put up an expo and fill it full of running crap, close city streets and hand you water, all of a sudden people turn into masochists with disposable incomes.

“Is this where I go to pay $375 so I can run till I deplete all my bodily fluids, and make the skin fall off my feet?  Here?  Cool. I can’t wait.”

How did this begin?  Where did this catch on?  The first guy who tried it in 492 B.C. died! It made the news!  Became kinda legendary.  Most sensible people took it as a warning. And that worked for about 2400 years.  But somehow they decided to try it again at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, and it became a thing.

Weren’t you people punished enough as kids?

It’s one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated! Let me see, I exhaust myself, I am blistered, I’m experiencing a full body cramp, I’m on the verge of being worthy of a guest-shot on the Jerry Springer Show – “how much is that gonna cost me?”

Jesus, people, isn’t life tough enough? This is what you do for fun?!  Honest.  Have you been to a finish line lately?  It’s like an open casting call for a remake of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and you people are trying out for the role of zombies. I’m not kidding. Do you see what’s left after 26.2 miles?  It’s a horror show.

Might I suggest a laxative?  You need to pass some stuff, cause you’re evidently all clenched up. I’m just sayin’.

(But if you are going to do it anyway, good luck, and have a blast!)

END

Advertisements