Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The Better Boston Bureau
It was not only his status, but the responses to it that also bothered me. One girl posted that the times were too easy and who wants to run a race if just anyone can get in. What? Too easy for her maybe, but not for everyone who strives to qualify. And do they really believe it is only the qualification times that make Boston such an important goal for marathon runners? These were my thoughts as I continued reading the responses. What in the world? These people are Facebook friends* with others who run slower than they do or who have not yet been able to qualify. How in the world is a status of that sort supposed to encourage runners? Maybe the point is not to encourage them, but to let them know they are not worthy and their marathon times are too slow, even for the current Boston qualifying times. That's nice.
The proof that some of their friends got the message appeared some minutes later. Another running friend who recently qualified and got in to Boston posted that after reading all the talk of the race, she wasn't sure she should have registered. I commented on that one. I had a lot of things I wanted to say...something about meaningless words of ignorant, thoughtless people, but instead I said she had earned it and should go. It was her running journey, after all.
Good grief. What happened to good old fashioned kindness and thoughtfulness? And what is it in our nature that makes us compare, put down, exclude, divide? Is it so that we, in the end, come out on top? I am better than you, and here's my proof!
Should Boston qualifying times be more strict? Maybe, maybe not. For this little runner, they seem pretty tough. Are runners who qualified for the harder times better, more deserving runners of the honor of running this marathon? Maybe, maybe not. But what point does it serve to broadcast such a view, right in the face of hundreds of other runners who dream of such an achievement? It isn't just me. I know these other runners. I see their statuses filled with all caps and exclamation points on the day they qualify. I see them at the finish lines, gasping for breath, feeling like death while knowing it was totally worth it. I hear the plans, goals, training and hopes of one day making that qualifying time.
I know running races, like all sports, is competitive. I know there are results and they are based on the comparison of my time against yours. I think that is fine and helps runners push harder than they might otherwise. I think it is fun to race, to compete against those like me (age and gender), and I like it when I win my age group. But what I think is "Wow, Jane, look at you! There is no way you would have ever imagined running like this a few years ago! Wow! You've got to tell people so they know they can do it too. So they can feel like this. This feels awesome! I wonder what else I can do..." I'm not trying to pat myself on the back for being nice. And I'll admit, I'm not always thinking nice thoughts. There exists a person or two that I've beaten and enjoyed the fire out of it (quietly to myself...okay, and to Jason). But what comes before the fall is pride, and it doesn't taste so good when you have to eat it. I don't want my running experience to be about beating another person (just that curly headed girl named Jane). I want it to be about my love of the sport and all the running adventures I write about in this blog.
I think it is impressive when someone can run really fast or really far or really far really fast. It is more impressive, however, when someone can run like that and stay humble. When kindness and thoughtfulness have a higher priority than spouting off about who the best runner is and that second place is just first loser (yes, they've posted that too). I think those who win are pretty cool, both locally and nationally. Until they appear to think so too. Until they need to take their running prowess out of the racing arena and use it to step on others who can't even fathom running like that. Then I am unimpressed. I am not inspired. I don't want to be anything like that, no matter what their marathon time was.
The things that are the most important - love, kindness, thoughtfulness, gentleness...you know where I'm going. I think these should take precedent over the constant comparison of me against you. Can I run faster? Do you make more money? Are you smarter than me? Am I better looking than you? What is it that promotes our need to be better than others? And how in the world can we really measure that anyway? Does it make you feel better to exclude me, the slower runner, from the Boston Marathon? I won't ever get that feeling of turning the corner right before the Boston finish line (I've heard its awesome), or witness an entire city support a race, or hold that medal in my hand. But hey, at least the qualifying times will honestly reflect which runners are good enough for Boston, and when registration opens, those runners will be able to get in. If that is what matters the most, then so be it.
* Facebook friend definition - someone you've come into contact with at some point in your life....maybe.