Apr 14 2006

Boston Marathon – Major Emotional Bummer

I got the following email from someone a few minutes ago.

I’ve been a reader of your blog for some time now, but will follow it no longer. Even though I don’t understand why someone would want to do it,sliding in the back door to run the Boston Marathon they way you secured your number is your business – you have to live with yourself. Bragging on your blog that you are using your influence, and the influence of your friends to essentially buy a place in that race is demeaning to you, and the great race itself, and this is why I’ve lost respect for you. I know many people who have dedicated years to their running, have not met the qualifying standard, but don’t have the money or know friends who can help them buy their way into the race. Trust me – these are the kind of people that don’t have the resources to build a “treadputer,” nor would they want to. But they are the kind of people who truly understand what the Boston Marathon is all about, and would not go unless they met the qualification standard.
 
If you read this before you line up, I hope you take a look around on the starting line and really take a look at the people surrounding you. The overwhelming majority of these individuals made the sacrifice, did things the right way, and deserved to be there. You can learn quite a bit from them, Brad. If you are reading this after the race, I hope you realize where you fit in on that starting line. 
 
You are a young man, and certainly should be able to qualify the right way. You are not doing this the right way, but I have a hunch you know this.  If you are willing to accept and go ahead with this short cut, I no longer have respect for you as a professional, or as a person.
 
Having spent the last few days getting my head into the idea that I was about to run 26.2 miles on the oldest marathon course in the US, in a city I lived in for 12 years, for a charity that I’ve supported, this really bummed me out.  I took a deep breath and wrote the following response.
 
I’m sorry you feel this way. 

I have enormous respect for the Boston Marathon.  Having lived in Boston for 12 years, I’ve followed it my entire adult life.  I have always known about the qualifying time and never expected to run Boston – I’m a slow runner (PR of 4:05) and I expect that – while I could qualify now that I’ve turned 40, I’ve decided instead to have a goal of running a marathon in every state by the time I turned 50.

I was pleasantly surprised on my 40th birthday by a friend who sponsored me by contributed to a charity affiliated with the race (Michael Listnow Respite Center).  I’ve subsequently contributed to the charity, as have some of my friends.  I expect you are aware of the relatively new tradition of charity runners at the Boston Marathon (and other marathons.)

I don’t believe this is a backdoor thing.  I have an official number and am an invited part of the race (rather than a scab running without an entry.) I didn’t use any special influence – anyone can raise money for the charity to be part of the race – it’s not a matter of “buying a number”, but committing to raise a certain amount for the charity.

The Boston Marathon officially supports this as you can see on the web site “There are eighteen official charities participating in the 2006 Boston Marathon. The charities have fund-raising requirements and give a limited number of runners an opportunity to run Boston while benefiting a locally-based charity or chapter.”

I’m proud to run and contribute to a charity that is affiliated with the race.  I have several friends who have qualified to run this year – they have all actively encouraged me to run even though I didn’t qualify by time.   Finally, the marathon now segments the start.  Charity runners are automatically put in the Second Wave which starts at 12:30.  I’ll be lining up in the back so I don’t clog the way for any faster runner.

 Again – I’m sorry this has caused you to feel the way you do.  We live in a free country so you of course can feel anyway you want.  However, I was surprised and saddened to get this email as I didn’t feel like my commentary on my blog about the marathon was disrespectful in any way.  In fact, this is the first negative comment or lack of encouragement from anyone that I’ve interacted acted with – including many runners I don’t know – who have encouraged me, including my coach, Bobby McGee, who has coached numerous Olympic and world class runners.

As John Bingham says, “Waddle on, friends.”