In terms of number of participants, the New York City Marathon is the World Series of running. While you may line up for the start of the race almost a mile behind the elite runners, you're still given the unique opportunity to compete against the best of the best. Whereas I'll never get the chance to play Roger Federer in Tennis, to intercept a pass from Peyton Manning nor to hit a home run off of C.C., the NYC Marathons affords everybody the chance to climb to the top of the running world.
While most of us more 'common runners' don't kid ourselves into believing we could actually win the marathon, we most certainly put our best foot forward and give our all for 26.2 miles. We fight the pain, walk if we must and focus solely on doing whatever is necessary to cross that finish line no matter how far off it may seem.
But, while all runners begin the race as equals, I’d say about 99.9% of the marathon’s participants have not deluded themselves into believing that they actually have an opportunity to win the race. With no more than 10 second s having passed since the gun went off and with the elite runners so far ahead of most runners already, the marathon quickly changes from a race into a personal test. More than a competition with others, the marathon is a test of one’s own perseverance, dedication and stamina. It is a test of physical prowess and mental fortitude.
Unfortunately, however, there are a few every year that forget what, to the ‘common runner,’ the marathon is all about. According to a November 1 st article in the New York Times written by Andrew Lehren, last year, an astounding 46 participants in the New York Marathon were disqualified after having been caught cheating and making the 26.2-mile course into something much shorter.
According to In A 26.2-Mile Slog, A Shortcut Can Be Tempting, “Runners have found several inventive ways to skirt the rules, if not parts of the course. Some take shortcuts, stepping off the course and rejoining it closer to the finish, often sneaking into Central Park once they enter Manhattan near Mile 16. Other racers hand their identities to faster runners, by giving them their designated bibs or the electronic timing sensors that attach to their shoes to officially record progress at intervals on the course".
I'll be the first to admit that I have thought about shortening the marathon for myself, but, those thoughts have never become anything more. I mean, really now...what purpose would cheating serve? If there is no chance of winning the race and no possibility of receiving any prize money, the only reason you're actually competing in a marathon is to test your limits. Believe me, dear readers, besides a few of your friends (really only the ones who also run) and your family (again, really only the ones who also run), nobody will even care that you finished a marathon earlier in the day and, in a few days, even those family and friends who congratulated you won't remember it. So, with no rewards to be had and no accolades really to garner, cheating in a marathon has absolutely no benefits.
In fact, the joke is really on the cheaters themselves. As anyone who has ever finished the New York Marathon will attest, upon finishing the 26.2 miles, runners are forced to walk like cattle in a two-person-wide corral for almost a mile until they can exit New York's Central Park. So on top of feeling no sense of accomplishment whatsoever, the stupid cheaters are forced to surround themselves with thousands of real finishers who are beaming with pride and comforted in the knowledge that they have just successfully completed a shared goal.
While I am loathe to use a cliche to sum up a sentiment, I find that there is one that can perfectly sum up my view of cheating in a marathon: those that cheat are really only hurting themselves.