Have you noticed that our sport has become less and less about health and fitness and more about one-upmanship? It's kind of like the old Ken'l Ration commercial, "My dog's better than your dog…" Everybody is trying to outdo everyone else.
You know how this one goes. You start out your running career doing a 5K. At that point, running a 5K is akin to climbing Mount Everest because you've never gone further than two laps around a track and the last one was only accomplished because you had a large dog chasing you. But you are up to the challenge, having purchased your $29.99 Keds and wearing the only cotton T-shirt you own. And even though you don't technically finish that first race, in the sense that you never actually get beyond the one mile mark, you feel a great sense of achievement.
So you buy yourself a pair of $80 Asics (after the last of your 1000 blisters is gone) and work your way up to doing another 5K, and another one, until after six months, you actually manage to finish one. Then your running "friends" (and I use that term VERY loosely) convince you that you must take the next step and do a five mile race. You are ready for more, particularly because the member of your running club have told you that 5K's are for sissies. So you do the five miler, and then its on to the 10K, the half, and ultimately, the big kahuna, the marathon. Yes, you are going to run a marathon.
By this time, your closet is so full of T-shirts and old running shoes that you've begun handing them out as treats for Halloween. So, you finish a marathon, and you feel pretty good about it. And then you do another and another, and before you know it, you're a member of the Fifty States Club. By that time, the bloom is off the rose and when your running friends suggest a 50K, they sell it by telling you its no biggy because it's just a teeny weeny bit longer than a marathon.
Ok, you say. No problem. You are lean and strong. The percentage of your body fat would not keep hamster alive for a day. Besides, you need someplace to test out your $500 running shoes with the built in radio, GPS system, and automatic air pump. You have now convinced yourself that with the mastery of each distance, only a greater distance will do. You go on to do a 50 miler, then 100 miles. By this time, all of your non-running friends have abandoned you because they realize you are completely psychotic. After completing the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon for the tenth time, there in only one thing left to do.
Yes, you are going to become a triathlete. Starting out with a half Ironman, you quickly move onto the full monty, the Ironman Triathlon (trumpets sound).
This pathetic scenario is being played out in every state in the nation. What has become of our sport? We now have the North Pole Marathon, the South Pole Marathon, and soon there will be no place challenging enough except the moon (yes, look for that one coming up as a Boston qualifier in 2006). How do the rest of us flat-footers hold up our heads? How do we continue to create challenges for the future? "The Barefoot Marathon?", "The Ultra, Heavy Duty, Xtreme, Supreme, Ironman Triathlon?" (where the swim is the length of the Amazon, and you are disqualified if you get eaten by any large reptile), "The Black Toenail 5000 Mile Ultra Marathon?" (where they pull off your toenails in advance so you don't have to wait for them all to come off in the race). Where will this madness end?
I suppose that, being the person I am, I have a particularly difficult time understanding this mentality. My personal goal is always to see how I can get the most while doing the least, and do it in the most comfortable way possible. For example, my principal concern in the marathon is not my time. It is how I will look in the finishing photo. SO I don't run too fast lest my makeup run and my hair get wet with sweat (heaven forbid, I can hardly even write the words). I believe that all marathons should have wardrobe and makeup artists stationed about a quarter mile from the finish line so runners can freshen up before they take that all important last step. Ultimately, I would like to invent some way to get the benefits of running while sitting still, like having someone run for me but the molecules of fat would come off from my body instead of theirs. Mow there's a challenge.
Anyway, I think it's a shame that running has come to this pass. But I don't really care anyway because my dog, the greatest couch potato of all time, IS better than yours. So be sure and send me a postcard from the moon. And don't stop running. I need to lose about ten pounds.