Monday, July 6, 2009

Who Cares About the Boston Marathon?

When I express disappointment for having missed my Boston-qualifying time by a little over 5 minutes, people may be justified in wondering why I would respond with such Debbie Downer sentiments. Finishing a marathon over a beautiful course on a sunny day in 3:26 is hardly the basis for self-revulsion, right?

Well, it's like this –- imagine you love playing tennis, and further imagine that Wimbledon or the French Open or another world major had a field of, say, 25,000 players. You'd still want to be invited to compete in it, right? You'd get to play in the same tournament as Roger Federererererrer, that other guy who sometimes wins, Dinara Safina, the Williams sisters, and the other amazing players filling out the upper rankings.

The glory would not abate much even if you doubted you'd even lay eyes on these demigods and demigoddesses; nor at the realization that even if you somehow drew one of them in an early round, he or she would squash you like a bug in the easiest straight sets in history. Even if you were having your Best Day of Tennis Ever and your top-ranked opponent decided to play blindfolded, drunk, and using an ancient wooden racquet, she/he would still crush you, and you'd adore every second of it.

So it is with the Boston Marathon. It’s a world major, along with the Berlin, Chicago, New York, and London marathons. Participating at Boston puts you in the same race as the very best runners in the world –- people who show up on magazine covers and get paid hundreds of dollars by shoe companies (this is running, not tennis, golf, or basketball), compete in the Olympics, and do things easily that you dream of doing on your best day.

Granted, the stars have their own starting chute ahead of crap-stained losers like you and me, but still, if you were to sprint your hardest for the first two or three miles, you might catch a fleeting glimpse of one of them in the far distance before passing out. Your glimpse wouldn't be clear enough to identify exactly which Kenyan or Ethiopian or freakishly ropy European was off to a slow start, but still. Still.

I know because I had the honor once, and I want to earn it again.

And yes, there is an element of sheer vanity here: I want to be able to say I have earned it again. I want to be able to wear the shirt associated with the event, which can be considered a wearable form of the bragging. I want the bib on my wall again. I want to gaze upon those high standards, know I've met them, and be able to tell others I have done so.

Considered narrowly, I don't particularly want to run those Newton hills again; I suspect I enjoy cross-continental flights as little as anyone else, if not littler; but for all that, I want to go back to Boston.

(Racquet image source)

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