Respect the Effort, Respect the Runner

English: Start of the 12th Annual U.S. Air For...
English: Start of the 12th Annual U.S. Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Nearly 7,400 runners took part in Marathon events Sept. 19 – 20. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, I had a conversation with a bunch of friends over marathons. Most of these friends are either casual runners who do not run races or have not participated in a Marathon. Not to be a Marathon snob, but I feel you need to either have thought of doing a Marathon or have participated in a Marathon to understand what really goes in to the distance.

Our conversation centered on the 5 hour marathoners and one of my friends said, “Oh, those guys should not be out there.” To which I replied, “of course they should.” “So what, if they are not in the front they are still competing against themselves.” “Also, what if they are using the marathon for a training race for an Ironman. I knew someone who did that but ran a 4 hour marathon because she needed to pace herself.  There are many reasons to run a slow marathon. I figure a 5 hour marathoner is a dedicated marathoner. They are out there longer.”

There is a common saying that states that a human is built to run 20 miles, but after that it’s all a mind thing. I can believe that because the Marathon is not just a physical event. It is very mental. No, I don’t mean people who run them are insane (though many people feel that way). I mean that you need to use your mind in order to get through the race no matter what level you compete at.

There are many types of levels of participation in all races especially a Marathon. Here are three levels that I have seen and are easy to follow: the serious racer, the competitor, the participant .

The Serious Racer is the one they show on TV in the front. They are usually highly trained elite runners with sponsorship, coaches and trainers who run the marathon in 2 hours and something. These people make up the top 5% of marathon runners. Not many people train at that level. This takes extreme dedication and fortitude to maintain. These people are super men and women who love the sport. You know who you are!

The competitor is a “local hero” or a racer who trains seriously for the race but does not expect to beat the elites. You could be racing against your self, or trying to improve and get a personal record, or just naturally good at racing. These people make up the majority of marathon runners. They train hard and run hard.This takes a lot of dedication and mental strength too. They love to run. They love to race. They are motivated.

The participant is someone who is either a first timer or a marathoner who is there just for the experience. This is a great place to start or be if you are not competitive and just want to live life to the fullest. The experience is just the same as any other marathoner and they may even complete the race in under 4 hours if it’s a great day for them. Some people jus naturally take to the marathon or ultra marathon. They have a spiritual connection to the race and the experience and the timing of the race is not important. This is a beautiful place to be.

With that said, marathoners train for 6 months to a year and prepare mentally just as long for their effort. Even if you are just mulling the race over it is considered preparation. This is not to be taken lightly as hours are spent by Marathoner running, planning runs, squeezing in recovery sessions, learning new techniques to keep themselves going, and spending money on the destination if it is not local. Not everyone can get it all together to do this race otherwise there would be billions of participants.

As with every marathon there are many people supporting the runners. There are family member, volunteers and service providers. Though they may not be running they still have a big role to play. It’s why the large Marathons are the most striking, exciting and leave a big impression on people. The marathon is about people and their spirit.

Last words…I feel honored that I was able to run one in my lifetime.



  1. There are marathoners of all shapes and sizes, speeds and strengths. Just like in life, a marathon contest is for everyone to enjoy, as long as he/she can afford the entry fee. 😉

  2. EVERYONE belongs in a marathon. Those who set time limits and look down on others for their slower times are just plain full of themselves. For me, the real heroes are the ones who had the courage to stick with it, train, show up, and take 6+ hours to finish. Their reasons for running a marathon are usually much deeper than someone just wanting to PR.

    1. I totally agree. Challenge comes in all forms! And there are many run for a cause runners in every race! The 5+ crowd is the dedicated ones who never give up.

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