Skip to comments.Why this obsession with running marathons?
Posted on 05/20/2014 9:51:59 AM PDT by Phillyred
A friend recently turned 30 and at her party along with the cake, gifts, and general merriment I felt a responsibility to offer a warning that I would have appreciated when I reached that age.
I told her that she was about to lose many of her close friends to an insidious cultural practice that snakes its way into our lives just as adulthood is waving its hoary hand.
I'm not sure how, or when exactly, it happens, but if you are one of those infected it takes over and pretty soon you can't relate to your friends anymore.
I'm talking about running marathons.
Why is it that seemingly normal people turn 30 and then feel compelled to start training for marathons? They don't run towards or from anything, they just start running.
I can't tell you how many friends I have lost to this obsession. My birthday friend waved off my concerns as, well, insanity. But I've seen too many friends and loved ones give in to this crazy compulsion not to try to hold up a stop sign.
It doesn't make sense 30 isn't the age to start running, long distances in particular. It's the age you start lying down.
A lawyer who used to represent injured workers told me that 30 is the age where the body starts breaking down backs give out, knees get wobbly.
Humans actually start to shrink after 30 as muscle tone deteriorates and gravity has its way.
Most of this lawyer's clients had their first injury at around age 30. So why would we start taking up an activity that's so hard on our backs and knees, not to mention the big pump?
Researchers at places like the Mayo Clinic continue to warn that running more than 60 minutes a day can scar the heart.
Unless a pack of wolves is chasing me, or there is a sale at Dairy Queen, there's no reason for me to run anywhere, let alone do a marathon.
marathon-300-rtr206u8 A marathon runner hits his stride in Vancouver's Stanley Park. (Andy Clark / Reuters)
But I'm having trouble keeping track of all my friends who have taken up this "sport" and, despite all my protestations and my logic, it turns out we human beings are designed to run. Long distances, in fact. And for reasonably long periods of time.
Our gluteus maximus is responsible for this. In other words, as studies have found, we have big butts that do relatively little work when we're walking on flat surfaces but they come in incredibly handy to propel us during running.
According to evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman at Harvard University, our huge bumpers give us the balance that other bipedal animals get from tails, and they also aid in making us superior runners.
Our ability to run apparently helped in our evolution as well because while there is no way we could beat one of the other great apes in a fight we could definitely outrun them.
We also had to run to catch some of the animals we wanted to eat.
Even though many animals, like dogs and cats, run faster than us, as the distances get longer we're actually able to catch up and beat some of the fastest creatures on the planet.
Add to this the configuration of our ear canals, which give us the incredible balance needed to run on two legs, and you see why we might make ideal marathoners.
Being relatively hairless also helps. It makes it easy to get rid of excess heat.
Of course all that evolutionary stuff was clearly useful for our cave dwelling ancestors, but what does running a marathon really mean in our modern world, I want to ask.
Well, I may have to concede that argument as well.
I do recall that when the 9/11 attacks shook the world, New York City especially, in September 2001, the New York Marathon two months later became a symbol of perseverance.
I remember then cabinet minister John Manley going to run that marathon as a show of solidarity with our U.S. neighbours. It was potent reminder that we are in this together, for the long run.
The same can probably be said for all the charity and worthy-cause marathons that keep cropping up and occupying the ambitions of so many of my friends.
I suppose that if you think of running in socio-economic terms, it is also an incredibly democratic and accessible activity.
Unlike so many other sports, there is no expensive equipment required, just some decent shoes, I guess. No hockey-style body armour or graphite rackets, just the open road and the will to push yourself forward.
There was a beautiful and moving documentary last year called Marathon Boy about Budhia Singh, a child from the slums of India, who became a sensation for his ability to run long distances at a very young age.
He ran half-marathons when he was three, marathons and, in the most famous instance, more than 64 kilometres non-stop at four.
Budhia was loved and admired, not just for his abilities as a runner, but because of what the running represented. In a country where most live in abject poverty, to see a young boy, especially from the slums, rise to fame and notoriety for his abilities, is the great American/Canadian/Indian dream.
So maybe the marathon is more than a yuppie rite of passage, or friends going through an early mid-life crisis.
But maybe this summer, when my friends and loved ones take on the selfless task of long-distance running either for charity or for their own insanity I'll cheer them on and try to not to mock, from the comfort of the sidelines of course.
Because walking it takes too long.
Yep that's me!
I don’t really know....I just remember some Iron Woman something or other woman who just had to run, run, run...
In this particular event, she couldn’t keep up and pushed. She pushed until she shat all over herself and collapsed right there. I sometimes wonder what kind of person she actually is and how she is with those around her.
Friend of mine started biking (road) at 52 and went all in within three years. He’ll 100 miles each day on Sat. and Sun., and then 40ish miles each day during the week.
Joined a local bike club, got a new set of friends and is really in shape. Does not hang with any of his old friends.
Hey, it’s his life.
Runners may be obsessed, but they beat cyclists any day of the week.
I’ll start running when I see a runner smiling.
my son, and more recently my daughter-in-law, are into it ... and both are edging ever closer to 50. the only thing that bothers me about it is when when they gripe, seek sympathy, or brag about their aches, pains, and injuries.
Running, especially jogging, is very hard on the joints.
I walk about 12 miles a week to burn calories, offsetting my office chair hours.
I’ve lost 25 pounds in the last 3 months, doing this and lifting weights. I’d like to lose another 15.
If I ever feel the need to start running (to burn those calories faster), I will sprint, not jog. Sprinting for 100-200 yds until I can’t keep sprinting. Then I’ll walk until I can sprint again.
I agree with you. I’m a big fan of exercise, but running is hard on the body, especially the knees....and even more so for women.
ever heard of this dedicated runner?
I began running Triathlons at age 49. I have done about 8-9 Sprints, but will not even think about a full or even a half Iron man. I did it to inspire my wife that was recovering from Central Nervous system Lyme’s disease. The Doctor said she needed to exercise so I signed us up at the Y.
Running keeps me feeling young. I’m 48. I tell my 16 y/o daughter and her friends I just ran 8 miles and they think I’m a freak. I love it. That said, RUNNING IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY. And that’s okay. Walk, ride a bike, play tennis. It’s all good. I like the challenge of running.
I always point out that the first marathoner dropped dead right after completing it.
Ture, but marathons take too damn long too.
So I just do 10k's now.
The only running I do is ... running late.
I turned 40, then ran my first marathon. Why 40? Because I didn't wait until I turned 50 to attempt it.
I'm running my first at 50. I've done enough halfs that I can run them in my sleep. Time to up the ante!
Why do it? When I stop finding ways to challenge myself physically and mentally, it's time to dig a hole and call it quits.
And my knees are just fine. And I get to be a 50 year old size 6 woman who never says no to a donut!
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