It’s a competitive world on the Internet, and I don’t begrudge Dave Hollander’s desire for more traffic. Sure, it’s transparent, but I’m happy to oblige.
Hollander published his e-mail exchange with his friend, writer C.J. Sullivan, in which they answer the headline question in the negative. Some excerpts:
Sullivan: “Out of the 37,000 duffers that will pollute the streets of our fair city this Sunday – November 7th – maybe 500 are athletes. The elite runners are something to watch. They are so lean they look almost alien. Them I admire. They are in an actual race. It is the 36,500 other fools that annoy me every year.
“Running is a great way to stay in shape. And running 26 miles is some kind of torturous accomplishment – but they are not athletes. They endure and then squawk about it endlessly as some kind of heroic feat. It smacks of narcissism not sport. Marathons are the last refuge for those that couldn’t cut it in other sports. Any knucklehead in decent shape can train and then run 26 miles in under 4 or 5 hours. It means you are in shape. It does not make you an athlete.”
Hollander: “Beneath the narcissism I detect deep-seated masochism. Kenyans run marathons because they have to. Back home there were no cars, no roads and the nearest school bus or fresh water source was 40 miles away. Their ‘training’ is borne from the necessity to survive. That 36,500 you mentioned, they run to kill personal demons. They beat their bodies swollen and sore to fill an emptiness or quiet a cry.
You’ll have your own reaction, I’m sure, but I’m struck by the irony of the claim marathoners just seek attention and ”run to kill personal demons,” being made by people who are posting their personal e-mails under a headline on one of the most widely read and publicized sites on the Internet.