July 6, 2011

The spirit of a marathoner

Yesterday, I was sent a blog by a fellow 50 State Club member. While I usually read lots of interesting and wonderful blog posts, this one was disturbing: its primary purpose was to attack another marathon runner who allegedly cheated in a race a few years ago.

Cheating in a race is a pretty serious offense, and I won’t defend Dane for doing so if that’s what happened (though I really doubt it given what I know of Dane). However, in attempting to disparage Dane, the blog authors also wrote a post called 52 marathons in a year is not that great an accomplishment. It’s this post that’s left me highly offended and upset, as it attacks anyone who’s proud of themselves for running marathons. The thesis of the post: “52 marathons in 52 weeks… was not that hard to do, as long as you have deep pockets.”

Longtime readers of my blog remember when I was about a dozen marathons into my 50 state quest and was laid off from my job. I was fortunate enough to find a new one, but in a down economy, no job was paying at the level of my previous one, and a large part of why I took a job working for an airline was because it would help me with the financial part of my quest. Yes, running marathons can be very expensive (especially with the travel), but there are ways to make it affordable (see my post on airfare tips), and my understanding from the president of the 50 states club is that I managed to do it for about half the average cost. You could run all 50 states far more cheaply than I did it, so I really resent the implication that running the 50 states is primarily a question of money – that’s not even the half of it.

I DO think it’s a big deal to run 52 marathons in a year, and I find this line especially offensive: “All it takes is money for travel and supportive family/spouse/significant other. It does NOT take awesomeness.” From my experience, it takes a lot more than money and supportive friends and family. It takes a lot of dedication and other sacrifices to go on the road for that long and always be running. No matter how much you love running, it’s not always fun and games to spend all your free time traveling to and from another race, pushing your body to run for hours, and traveling home… all before returning home to a demanding job. It took a huge toll on me just to do 50 states in 2 years, but that’s even less than Dane did, and he’s being crucified for being proud of his accomplishment. According to this post, I shouldn’t have even bothered running all 50 states because it’s something anyone can do.

In fact, I have always said that anyone CAN do what I did, and I’ve always acknowledged that other people have done exactly what I did (and even faster and better than I did it). However, while I think anyone is capable of running a marathon, not that many people have put forth the effort to go out of their way and do it. There is a big difference between being able to do something and actually doing it, and that to me is what separates a truly successful person from a dreamer.

On a completely non-running related tangent, I started college as a theater major before deciding that quite honestly I was too risk-averse to pursue that as a career. I switched to business, and five years later, one of my scene partners from freshman year became a supporting lead in the original cast of the Tony award winning Broadway musical Spring Awakening. A few years earlier, we were deemed equals, but he did the hard work and really “made it” on Broadway. So if I presumably could have done the same thing, does that mean his accomplishment means nothing? Absolutely not – he worked his butt off and made a lot of sacrifices to land that role, and he deserves all the accolades he got. Just because you could hypothetically do something doesn’t mean that it’s not an accomplishment when someone goes out and does it.

When you get to the comments on the post, you get to one that’s written by one of the authors, which says “Any plodder can go out and jog 26.2 miles every weekend. It is not easy to run sub 2:30 for the same distance.” I was proud of myself for running all 50 states, but according to this post, because I wasn’t fast, it doesn’t mean anything. Could I have run faster if I had run fewer marathons? That’s something I always wonder, but it’s worth pointing out that my fastest marathon time was set at my third marathon in 8 days – it may be that the frequency actually helped my body to be used to the distance and therefore push farther. I’m really not sure; however, I don’t think marathon time is the only measure of how accomplished you are as a runner.

The post really knocks people who talk about their accomplishments, saying, “None of us have ever did an expo ‘talk’ where we pontificated about how awesome we were. ” This part really makes me worry. I’ve spoken at an expo before – was it about “how awesome I was”? I don’t know. I talked about my experiences going from 0 to 26.2 to doing that 50 times, and I hope I portrayed it in a down-to-earth, non-bragging way. But I’ve heard Dane speak before (admittedly, a few years ago), and it didn’t seem to be any different than what I’ve done. On the promotional front, I write this blog, which is honestly a bit self-indulgent. What I write about is just my daily life, which I know is not any more special than anyone else’s daily life. Is that conceited of me to write about it in a public forum and hope that readers are interested? Does everyone in the running community believe that I think I’m better than everyone else because of my blog or the talks I’ve done? I really hope not, but this post makes me worried what people think about me.

I was recently invited to speak at a wellness conference this fall, and I am really pumped about the opportunity to share my story and encourage other people to pursue their own goals. But now this post makes me second guess my accomplishment. I’ve had many people tell me they enjoy hearing my story, and I absolutely love when people tell me that I’ve inspired them to take up running or train for a marathon or even do all 50 states. When I pace or when I speak, I encourage everyone to just give it their best. There are many people who are far better than I am at running, but I believe my achievement isn’t in being the best; it’s in doing something that for me was seemingly impossible. I pushed past my limits and I came out better for trying. I think that’s a story that many people can relate to, and the feedback I’ve generally gotten has been positive.

I believe everyone should push themselves to their limits and can be proud when they have done so, whether that means finishing a marathon in 2:30 or finishing a 5K in an hour. Both can be significant accomplishments, and if the person was a good enough speaker and could convey why it was significant for them, I’d love to listen to the latter just as much as the former. Unfortunately, the authors of this post call me a “self-promoting aggrandizer” if I dare to speak about my achievement when I wasn’t the best or the only one to do it. I think I am a winner just for finishing (isn’t that why we all get medals at the end?), and for this blog to deny that is exactly the opposite of the running spirit.


11 thoughts on “The spirit of a marathoner”

  1. To heck with anyone who says what you did was not an accomplishment. And hold your head up and speak with pride at the wellness seminar. People there want to hear from you, about you, and everything that made you do what you did. Dont shortchange them. There could be someone in the audience that just needs the spark of your excitement to get going in their own lives. Again, to hell with all the people who try to steal your joy. You have one life. Live it the way you want to live it.

  2. Girl you ARE an inspiration!! Your hardwork, dedication, consistency and passion that allowed you to keep your eye on a goal is amazing. I really dislike people that put down other people’s goals and accomplishments in the manner of that other blog. What does he know about YOU. And in the end, it is not just about being able to say you ran a marathon in every state, although that is pretty damn cool, it is about the personal journey. It is what you learned about yourself on your journey. Not only physical. It is about the friends you made. It is about the cramps and sore muscles you overcame. It is about the mental strength you gained. It is about the amazing trips you took to experience our great nation. It is about the scenery you were able to run in and experience that you described in your commerical. It is about the confidence that you gained along the journey. It is about the young lady in those jet blue commericals that speaks with conviction about here “why” and how she achieved her goals.
    That other blogger doesn’t have a CLUE about what running those marathons is TRULY about! But you do!
    Thanks for sharing your frustration with your blog friends here. We are hear to read and listen.
    Keep your chin up kiddo! You are amazing!

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said being able to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Those authors don’t know what their talking about or understand life; don’t let them bring you down! Your accomplishment is awesome and I’ve definitely been inspired!

  4. I agree with you. I “only” do half marathons, and I certainly haven’t done 52 in a year, and it is definitely tiring! I have only run a few marathons (SLOWLY) and could not imagine running one that often.

    I DO think it takes awesomeness!!

  5. I was also disappointed by that post belittling Dane’s 52 marathons in 52 weeks. I’m trying for just 16 marathons in a year and I’m slower than Dane, and it’s difficult! According to that post and the comments, I’m pretty much worthless. But, I disagree with them, I’ll keep pushing to reach my goals (and writing about it in my blog) whether they respect them or not.

    Laura, I am extremely impressed by your dedication and accomplishments, and I find your blog interesting. Keep on writing and speaking, you are an inspiration to many!

  6. Laura, I’ve been a regular reader of your blog for 2 years now. Obviously, I like your tone and format and am especially impressed with your accomplishments! I think highly of you because you are honest about your training, the races and the ups and downs. I also thought today’s post was well written and well argued. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Running a marathon in itself is an accomplishment that not a lot of people do. And running 52 is huge. There are plenty of people who can afford to travel every weekend but you don’t see them running a marathon each one. 26.2 miles is not an easy plod, despite what that author says. Be proud of yourself!

  8. TAOTB – The Chronicles of Dane Rauschenberg (Cheats) (http://danerauschenbergcheats.blogspot.com/)

    Are NOT knocking the accomplishment of completing 52 marathons in one year or for your accomplishment of 50 in 1 year. TAOTB are not even questioning that accomplishment of Dane. However, it is not that big of deal – Larry Macon did 102 in a year (AMAZING)! We were denoting the fact that anyone can go out and run 50 (or more) marathons in 1 year if pockets are deep enough or you have sponsors to get you there etc. Heck, Dean Karnazes ran 50 Marathons in 50 Days (not all sanctioned races but on the course of the races). All it takes is a bit of desire, training leading up to it, and some money to get you there! However, if there is a state that has 50 (or more) marathons in 1 year – I am sure that would be the CHEAPER way to do it!

    As for why the blog is up – Dane continues to state he ran the American Odyssey Relay Race (2010) – 202 Miles SOLO in under 50 hours – According to his own admissions he slept nearly a total of 6-7 hours during the overall elapsed time or 50(ish) hours so that would put him somewhere around 202 miles in 43 hours (giving the benefit of the doubt). CRAP – that would be nearly WORLD RECORD PACE and sorry but Dane is a good runner at marathon but we are calling BS on that escapade – the man has not even EVER ONCE completed a 100 mile attempt! He tried twice and DNF’d both and gave some sorry BS excuses as well! Plus, anyone who runs ULTRA’s knows that after a certain distance, pulling slightly over 5 min miles even downhill is not an easy task!

    Laura – Kudo’s on what you accomplished and continue to accomplish! However, anyone can do it if they trained for it and have deep enough pockets or sponsors to get you there! Sorry but thats the truth!

  9. Well that’s totally bogus, you did it and you did it your way and that’s what counts!

    There are always people who try to knock others and your’re not one of them

    Hold your head up high!

  10. All very well put, Laura, and honestly, I can’t figure out why there are so many haters out there. I’m not D.R.’s #1 fan, but at the same time, I think the (negative) energy that is being put out there about him is cruel and, well, very negative (how’s that for redundancy?).

    What you did was wonderful, but more important is that it is YOURS! Until the haters do what you or Dane (or anyone else has done), I feel that they have no place in speaking about it.

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