In our center-right, celebrity-saturated society it is all but apostacy to say, as Yale University Sterling Professor of Humanities Harold Bloom did in a C-SPAN interview in 2000, “The country was almost destroyed by Ronald Reagan, that charming, smiling fellow. He assured us we could all emancipate ourselves from our selfishness, which we proceeded to do on a national scale.”
Bloom’s biting assessment arrived on the heels of the dot-com bubble, but a full eight years before the housing bubble burst, a collapse that plummeted the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Today, we are still on the long climb back to full recovery, if such a thing even exists.
In our modest running world, a similar emancipation has taken place. Over the last generation, running has witnessed its own emancipation from effort, better known as the “Everyone’s a Winner” phase of the second running boom. Runner’s World’s Mark Remy wrote about it this past January – OK, Time to Retire the Finisher’s Medal, and just yesterday the Wall Street Journal took up the issue – A lack of competitiveness in younger runners is turning some races into parades.
In June 1982, the late president of the New York Road Runners and race director of the New York City Marathon Fred Lebow told me, “You talk of a running boom, but we haven’t seen a boom yet. This has only been a boom-let. The one area that is completely behind the times is women running. Most races see 15-25% women, yet the population is over 50% women.”
As with most things, Lebow was a seer. Today, mass marathons in the U.S. are generally over 50% women with some tilting over 60%. Even registration for next April’s Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world, has skewed heavily female. Much of that is the consequence of last year’s tragic bombings at the Boston finish line, but some of it is Lebow’s prophecy coming true.
Though the 2014 Boston Marathon registration will skew slower and more female than usual with addition of the 4700 entrants from 2013, predominantly women, who were unable to complete the distance due to the finish line bombings, it is still a long way from 1979 when only 520 women entered Boston compared to 7357 men. Continue reading