Archive for June, 2012

Fun with Half Marathons

June 3, 2012

I ran a half marathon last summer. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

1. It’s quite boring. I like taking 30-60 minute runs at home. I like getting outside on a nice day and jogging through my neighborhood, and exploring other neighborhoods. The half marathon was not like this. Diminishing returns set in quickly, the route went mainly through commercial corridors and along a highway, and it was also much longer than what I would say is enjoyable.

2. It involves waking up early. I hate setting an alarm unless I need to go to work the next day or catch a flight (or go fishing, possibly). HATE it. I don’t care what the event is; knowing that I need to wake up and do something at a pre-determined time on a non-weekday generally ruins the entire preceding day for me. Marathons require one to wake up before dawn and then be bored for 3 hours while running.

3. People seem to do it for a very nebulous sense of accomplishment. Many people obviously derive a great deal of satisfaction from running, and people watching the event seem to derive much satisfaction from watching/cheering. It’s all quite masturbatory. Runners run to feel like they’re accomplishing something, even though the benefits of long distance running are very ambiguous. Interval cardio or weight resistance training are likely healthier and provide much more bang for the workout buck. The people on the sidelines cheer to be a part of the runners’ accomplishments. It is running for the sake of running, and cheering for the sake of cheering.

I was also very surprised to see how many people came out to cheer. There were MANY people. Why in the world do people feel the need to cheer on total strangers for going on a run? It’s bizarre beyond measure. If a marathon came past my apartment, I can’t imagine having any desire to cheer people on.

The half-marathon I ran wound through a residential neighborhood. When I ran past, I saw a 40-something year old father frantically yelling and cheering. He even had noisemakers. His two sons stood at his side cheering as well, although less enthusiastically.

A few hours later I ran past that same man on the way back. He was still cheering loudly, and his two sons sitting in the grass, playing around with sticks and staring at the sky. His voice was hoarse. Why was he doing this? What did his children think? What should I think?

The best explanation for why people run marathons, I think, is that running is easily measurable. N+1 miles is unambiguously longer than N miles, and requires more physical output. A 3 hour marathon is more impressive than a 4 hour marathon. Just because it is easily measurable, though, doesn’t mean that it’s a particularly efficient form of exercise.

I don’t think I’ll be doing this again, though I’m glad I gave it an initial shot.