Has this country's marathoning spirit been trampled by hordes of joggers whose only goal is to stagger across the finish line?
He dismisses Oprah, who ran 4:29 at the Marine Corps Marathon, as "a middle-aged woman hauling her flab around the District of Columbia. If Oprah could run a marathon, shame on anyone who couldn't.
When Oprah expanded the sport, she also lowered the bar for excellence. For the previous generation of marathoners, the goal had been qualifying for Boston. Now, it was beating Oprah. Her time of four hours and 29 minutes -- the Oprah Line -- became the new benchmark for a respectable race ...
Once the supreme test for hardened runners, the marathon became a gateway into the sport. Soon, gravel paths were crowded with 5-mile-an-hour joggers out to check "26.2 miles" off their life lists. Team in Training, which raises money for leukemia research, promised to turn loafers into marathoners in 20 weeks. I met a lawyer who started running because, "They say if you can run a marathon, you can do anything!" The marathon was no longer a competition. It was a self-improvement exercise."What's wrong with running being an exercise in self-improvement? How are 4-hour, 5-hour, 6-hour marathoners dragging down elite runners, as this writer, Edward McClellan, states?
He goes on to say:
"In the last 15 years, the Chicago Marathon field has increased tenfold, to 45,000. But with this change in the running culture, the average finishing time for men has dropped from 3:32 to 4:15 -- not far from the Oprah Line, or my own performance. Last month's Chicago Marathon had to be shut down mid-race, because undertrained five- and six-hour marathoners couldn't handle that much time in the 85-degree heat.
McClelland has run one marathon, in 4:16, a time he deplores. He ends the essay by stating:
"I'm ready to do my part. My bum knee just carried me through a half-marathon. Next spring, I'm going the full distance -- and I'm going to do it in the spirit of the first running boom, in under three and a half hours. I may even wear a cotton T-shirt and a sweatband.
Hope you slather on the Vaseline, Edward. And don't look behind you. That'll be me, gaining on you and ultimately passing your cotton-clad ass.