About a month ago Dennis and I had an e-mail exchange about the lure (and the lore) of the Boston Marathon. He’s done it; I haven’t. We both agreed that the race is way too hyped. Dennis has decided to carry that virtual conversation onto his blog and I’d love to hear what everyone thinks (as would he, I’m sure).
I think in our need to place order to everything, we had to select one race to be better than the others and the nod went to the storied Boston race. Its tradition, and especially the BAA’s reluctance to fiddle with that aspect, made it a natural selection. The somewhat recent institution of a qualifying time to limit the field (and presumably reduce permit costs) only strengthened runners’ resolve to run it, even if there are numerous ways to circumvent that requirement. Boston has a cache that other major marathons like New York City and Chicago do not, at least not within certain running circles.
But I’ve frequently asked myself why I want to do it. I mean, I commuted by car and train to Boston for years and see no appeal to running a similar route, especially if it’s really warm. Then again, I frequently drive around downtown San Diego and Mission Bay and earlier this month spent five painful hours retracing those streets to prove something to myself. There’s the money too. The stiff price tags and ridiculous registration cut-offs for most big marathons now border on outrageous, but it’s a normal consequence of the distance’s recent mass popularity.
When someone first learns you run, they always want to know if you’ve ever done a marathon. And if they learn you’ve done many, they always ask if you’ve done Boston. To non-runners, they ask because it’s a marathon they’re familiar with. But when another runner asks, you are being sized up. I suppose my real beef with the artificial significance placed on this larger-than-life race is that when I answer, part of me suddenly feels small.