Just seven tiny years ago, I couldn’t have told you how far the 26.2 mile beast was. I didn’t even know what 5K meant. Now, the race of epic proportions is just part of my daily life and vernacular. I used to think this made me unique, different from the crowd. I didn’t just run, I was a marathoner. In the seven years that I’ve called myself a runner, the world of running has changed pretty dramatically. I may not be as set-apart as I thought.
The registration numbers are growing tremendously as the marathon seems to be a “must-do” item on so many people’s “bucket lists.” I like the idea of more runners, but I’m not so sure the quantity increase is bringing more quality to the sport. Don’t hear me wrong, there’s room for many speeds in running, but is there room for people who don’t train properly? Is the marathon really a place for someone who doesn’t respect the distance? Bottom line: what’s happening with the marathon? What’s it becoming? And what are the side effects of all of these people taking on the once exclusive 26.2 mile race?
Research published in 2012 and reported by StrideNation.com stated that marathoners used to be one in a thousand. Now, for every 607 Americans, one of them finished a U.S. marathon in 2011. The annual report from Running USA also stated that since 2000 there has been a 47 percent increase in in the number of marathon finishers nationwide. These increases are being seen outside the charts and surveys. In 2011, the New York City Marathon had more than 47,000 finishers. This made for the largest race ever held.
Other large scale signs are being seen in what happens when marathoners attempt to sign up for the major races. In 2010, those attempting to register for the 2011 Boston Marathon crashed the race’s website and the event filled within hours. This race requires qualifying times, so not just any runner could sign up, but the number of eligible filled the slots quickly, something that rarely ever happened in recent past. This forced Boston to change their qualifying times and registration process.
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From a vacation that resulted in too many rest breaks and breaking the restaurant chair to completing the Chicago Marathon. This is just one way to sum up the journey Chris Deacon has been on since he’s dropped nearly 200 pounds with proper diet and exercise.
At his heaviest Chris weighed in at 393 pounds. He admits to always being overweight and always struggling with diets. He’d try one, lose 50 pounds, then gain 70 back. Chris explained how the demands of adulthood made things even harder for his growing weight issue.
“…as I approached my 30s, there was a perfect storm that led me from overweight to obese. I moved from a retail job where I was always on my feet to a desk job. At the same time, I got married and, because we were both in school, began to eat fast food a lot more.”
Obesity caused many struggles in every aspect of Chris’ life, but especially in the physical sense as it begun to drain his energy. “This influenced my life professionally as well as socially. I also had trouble getting around,” he said. “I would get winded going up a single flight of stairs. Anytime friends would want to do something remotely active, I would bow out.”
Chris’ rock bottom moment came when he and his wife vacationed in Savannah, Georgia.
“We spent a lot of time walking around historic Savannah and I would have to sit down every block or two. I was in constant pain and discomfort. Then we decided to take a horse drawn buggy tour. Climbing out of the buggy, I split my pants for everybody to see. We had to drive for some time to find the ‘big and tall’ store, because nothing else would fit.”
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Marathons are always memorable. The grueling task of traveling 26.2 miles on foot leaves permanent marks on our mind. While the thrill of crossing the finish line is often a favorite moment for all marathoners, those 26.2 miles can leave us with many other flashbacks as well. Marathoning can get messy, brutal, and downright embarrassing at times. Here are some of the most unique marathon moments from fellow runners across the country.
One of the most uncomfortable moments in my marathoning career occurred just feet after the 2011 Boston Marathon starting line. Runners had been lined up in corrals for some time with no bathrooms in sight, the first chance to go was in the brush just off the street before mile one. The brush was shallow and the runners were in a hurry. I’d never seen so many bare backsides in my life. Men and women alike were squatting and some very boldly doing more than number one right in plain sight. All I could do was look straight forward because they were everywhere!
April Reed of Wichita, KS was honest enough to admit being in a bad situation at the San Diego Marathon. “I peed in downtown San Diego right off the street in some low lying bushes. I think I came out of the bush before I really had my pants up.”
Jenny Poore of Chicago, IL explained how her bladder got the best of her at mile 22 during the Chicago Marathon. She could have stopped but she was having a great race so she just let nature take its course, down her legs. “I’m not ashamed. It was exhilarating. Just glad I don’t have a photo with water spewing everywhere. hahaha!”
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