This weekend, of course, is the Twin Cities Marathon. I will not be running it, but will be cheering.
I thought it would be fun to do multiple posts this week talking about "The Marathon". Not just TCM, but marathons all around the world, and the evolution the marathon.
Disclaimer - Some of what I will say here might offend some of you, or cause you to think I am an arrogant ass, or an eliteist. I really don't intend to, but many have taken my opinions the wrong way.
With that said, let's look at the good.
Who would have thought that a marathon would be a marketing opportunity for a city? Only a short 20 years ago, there were few marathons (comparatively), and most of them were big city marathons.
My first was Chicago in 1991 (I was a student at Northwestern, and a bunch of us thought it would be a cool thing to do). I think around 5,000 people finished that year. I heard they accepted 45,000 this year.
Back then, the Chicago Marathon was on the verge of extinction. It took LaSalle banks to come in as a sponsor to save them. It is now a very profitable race.
I don't know much of the histroy of the Twin Cities Marathon, other than the fact that it used to be a figure 8 course around the lakes in uptown.
I don't know when it happened, but the marathon became a pop culture icon. It became an ultimate challenge for some, a "bucket list" item for some, a midlife crisis resolution, and the list goes on. Because of this, the demand to run a marathon everywhere became a reality.
Not having run most of these, I can't speak to how well they are executed. I did run Whistlestop last year in Ashland, WI. That is quite a contrast to Chicago. Not only in size, but in charm. Whistle stop is in its 11th year, I believe, and they do a great job. It's great for the community too. All of the runners and spectators come to the area for the weekend, and the town celebrates it.
Duluth is not a small town, and Grandma's is one of the oldest races. What would Duluth be without Grandma's? That town celebrates the marathon, and loves hosting it. They understand that they need the marathon to keep that city together. (and they rob the runners blind with hotel rates). But that's okay.
Some cities became so focused on the pr, and all of the stuff outside of running. They have made it a circus.
I don't know the status now, but the LA Marathon had a real bad rap for many years. Poorly managed. They used to have a "marathon bike tour" BEFORE the race. You could ride your bike on the whole route, get crap on the course, etc. They started this at 7am, thus making the marathon start at 9 or 930. They even marketed the bike tour as a tough think to do.
Sorry, riding a bike 26 miles ain't that hard. Maybe with a flat tire.
They would also spend a half hour at the start honoring all of the corrupt politicians who made this calamity happen. I used to live there, and the LA politicians are a real bad bunch.
Somewhere in there these cities realized they could compete to be the "biggest" marathon in the world, and another race was on. Bigger is not better, but they don't care. While it is fun to do one of these, one is all I recommend.
Chicago proved last year that they were not capable managing that large of a race. Throw bad weather in there, and managing 35,000 runners becomes a problem. Their solutiong, accept 45,000 entrants. I believe they expect 5-10 thousand not to show up. People blame the runners as much as the race directors for last years' Chicago (which I agree with), but it shows where their motivations are. It is a money maker.
I am glad Twin Cities and Grandmas have kept their integrity by limiting the field to 10 thousand. It creeps up a little every year, but it is still under control. Twin Cities had almost the same weather as Chicago last year, and a lot fewer problems.
Well, not really the ugly, but I loved that movie.
This brings up the people who run these. I believe too many people toe the start line who are completely unprepared to do the race. And yes, it is a race. You don't have to run it as one, but it is a race. (I actually do believe some of these races should have an alternative "fun run" to take the stress off the race).
Take the cutoff times.
Luckily, TCM still has a respectable 6 hour cut off. I saw one years ago which had a 7.5 hour cut (it was a flat, road race).
At some point, you dilute the race by letting anybody at any pace say "I ran the marathon".
Now, I will be the first to admit I don't run all of my races. When people ask about Superior, I saw "i walked half the damn thing". I don't say I ran 100 miles, because I didn't.
But, a course like TCM needs to hold some sort of integrity to the race. Most people should be able to run/walk a sub 6 marathon (excluding people with serious obstacles). If you can't, you probably need to lose some weight and put together a real training program.
Problem is, we don't celebrate all of the tough things people do to prepare for a good race. We don't celebrate someone saying "I am going to lose 30 pounds, and run a marathon". We only celebrate the running of the marathon. The prep and training is harder than the race.
This bings me to one of my major pet peeves. (this is where i make people mad)
"It's all mental anyway"
That quote is a load of BS in my opinion. I believe it was invented by people who don't want to put in the hard work to run a good race, so they cop out with that line. Yes, there are mental aspects of it, but most of the mental toughness is needed during the training.
I don't know anyone who has run a Boston Qualifier and said, "yeah, that was all mental".
I having nothing against the mental crowd, I just wish they would understand that YOU CAN change your lifestyle to be a runner. But it involves diet with training.
This post is long enough, but there are a few other happier topics on the marathon I will post about later.
The runners who inspire mewho are running this weekend. You might be surprised.