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Are You An Entitled Exerciser?

October 23, 2009

After growing up marginally overweight, unable to run even a mile without stopping (and panting), I moved to Manhattan in the early 90’s. My fiancé (who eventually became my husband) encouraged me to start running with him. I got hooked and decided to challenge myself by running in a race. Not yet aware of the NYC Road Runners Club which hosted several local races throughout the year, my husband and I left on an early morning train to Long Island one Sunday morning for my first 5 k. While I knew I was a slow runner, my goal was just to finish the race, without stopping. And I did.

I had so much fun and felt such a wonderful sense of accomplishment after running that race. It would be the first of many 5 K and 10 K races I’d participate in over the years. My claim to fame is a 10 mile race I completed, without stopping, shortly before I became pregnant with my first son almost 12 years ago. My husband, who had completed (in very good time) the NYC Marathon three times, ran with me in that 10 mile race; when he got a cramp, he hid behind a tree as he and my parents watched me complete the race–without stopping– in record time–well at least my personal record of almost 1 hour and 50 minutes. Despite my slow time, I was over the moon to have trained and completed the race and achieve what was for me a personal best.

You can only imagine how I felt after reading “Plodders Have a Place, But Is It In A Marathon,” a well written but disheartening article by Juliet Macur in today’s New York Times. As an exercise enthusiast, registered dietitian, and supporter of my husband and so many friends and colleagues who have trained for and competed in one or more marathons over the years, and as a self-declared plodder (though I’ve never attempted nor do I think I could ever complete a marathon), I cringed at several of the elitist comments made by marathon runners in this article. Seems that some feel that marathons should be reserved only for the fast and furious, and not for those who do it to challenge themselves. I’m not sure anyone really does it to just to say they did it as suggested by some in the article, though I’m sure there are exceptions.

Of course it’s a free country and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But I believe that running a marathon is something many people aspire to do, and those who work so intensely and build up the ability to even fathom running in a marathon (or in any race for that matter) should be allowed to participate. They should be celebrated for doing what they never thought they could and not be made to feel less than worthy or accomplished when they receive a medal and are draped in cellophane at the end of the race. Of course there’s a time and place for everything, and elite runners have every right to have their own races in which to participate. But it’s cruel for those who are gifted and fast to look down at those who train but don’t possess their speed, level of skill, or genes.

I would love to run a marathon–I just don’t think I could actually finish one, or train without injury. Even when I run two miles once a week, that little spot on my left hip starts to ache. So I mix it up with walking, weight training, and activities like ice skating. When I miss a day of exercise, I feel disappointed, but know that my constant fidgeting and running around will still help me burn at least some calories and maintain a healthful body weight. I am proud of how far I’ve come with my exercise, and think it’s important for people to challenge themselves and take risks, but do it in a way that’s safe and sensible and fits into their life.

Source: The New York Times, http://bit.ly/2shOVR; to join the discussion from readers: http://bit.ly/2shOVR http://bit.ly/21rmP3

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    October 24, 2009 9:45 am

    Very inspiring! I hope to be able to get there one day. I am sure the sense of accomplishment is a wonderful high!

  2. October 27, 2009 12:09 pm

    Thanks Elisa! Having run the NY Marathon and watched it so many times I feel the most unique and inspirational part of the event is that the elite follow the same course as the “plodders”. And while the elite runners benefit from prize money and endorsements, the rest of us have to plan training around kids and jobs and are paid in endorphins and self confidence. And finally (can you tell I am fired up?), many runners raise a great deal of money for charities via their marathon training and so others benefit as well. So whether you run 2 miles or 20, accomplishments come in all shapes and sizes, feel good about yours.

  3. Lindsay permalink
    October 27, 2009 9:33 pm

    I appreciate the post! The NYT article from last week has been a very hot topic among my running and non-running friends alike. I really hate the elitist attitude that many endurance athletes have. As a triathlete and marathoner, I believe racing is not about time and distance but how it makes you feel about yourself. Additional why anyone would discourage a person from physical activity when our country is experiencing a obesity epidemic is beyond me. I applaud anyone brave enough to take on a physical challenge whether its a 5k or a marathon and everyone should be able to participate no matter their time!

  4. November 2, 2009 12:57 pm

    As a fellow RD and plodder, I appreciate your post. Races are for everyone, regardless of their endurance abilities. I started running because I found it to be the most welcoming exercise community for a (former) overweight chain smoker. The feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie at races turned into the best motivator that kept me going…into half marathons.

    I love seeing people out there, trying their best, no matter what. Maybe it is our, “our” meaning those of us who welcome everyone, responsibility at races to reach out, high five and smile.

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