Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"You don't look like a marathoner"

I don't know how many of you watched or followed the Boston Marathon yesterday, but both the men's and women's races were absolutely terrific contests, neither of which was decided until the last 2 blocks of a 26.2 mile race. Plus, the USA went 2 and 5 in the women's race, with 5th place finisher Kara Goucher just a few months off giving birth and probably would have won with higher fitness had she had a few more weeks training. In the Men's race, Ryan Hall paced the race for the first half, and finished just off the podium in 4th.

It was a gorgeous day here in Boston, and with the perfect weather came some fast running. Because the Boston Marathon course is a point to point race, and because it's slightly downhill in total elevation; races run on the course do not count towards the world record. If they did, both the Men's and Women's world records would have been set as well as the American record in both races. It was an amazing day of racing all around, and Rach had the day off to watch it while I snook time for updates during the workday.

Which is why I waited until today to post this particular story, because I didn't want to put anything even the least bit negative out yesterday.

My buddy Dan and I went on our annual gambling trip this past weekend, and we spent Saturday night and Sunday in the Boston area. Sunday Morning. we went over to the race expo to wander around a bit, and Dan wanted to see the finish line of the race. Dan asked me to take his picture at the finish line, and while we were in the process of doing so, a woman came up to us and said "Excuse me, are you doing the race? Because you don't look like a marathoner".

I was flabbergasted. What do you say when someone says to you "You clearly don't belong here", based totally on appearance. Frankly, my immediate impulse was to say "Are you a bitch? Because you don't look like one". I bit my tongue and responded that my friend was merely a tourist wanting a picture, and then I tried to stammer out something about being a triathlete and having done a Half-Ironman. I'm sure I sounded like an idiot, and I felt like less than nothing.

I'm sure the lady was the mother or grandmother of someone doing the race, probably a fit young person who has run since middle school, and this is probably the first race she's ever been around where non-traditional athletes participate. But that's another "qualifier", and I don't understand why I have to use one in the first place.

What does a marathoner look like?

Is it this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

Personally, I think it's this

Maybe I shouldn't have let this bother me, because truly, I'm not a marathoner yet. I won't be racing my first until September. But insert "athlete" for "marathoner", and it's a much bigger discussion. If we judged every person by what they looked like, and not what they were capable of, something tells me this guy wouldn't have made quite the impression on the world that he did.


  1. What a jerk. I can't believe people sometimes. I am really sorry someone said that to you. I love your "I think it's this" picture!

  2. Recent tweet by a Boston Marathoner that will soon to be formerly followed by me...
    "Saw 2 people in the Nashville airports wearing Boston medals...really?"
    So qualifying for Boston has nothing to do with time and everything to do with how much of an ass you are? If I ever qualified for and finished Boston, I would wear my medal around for at least a month. Some people are just so pompous and don't know how good they have it that running comes easy for them. Some of us have to work our asses off for it only to get laughed at because we are proud of what we accomplished...or because our bodies don't fit the stereotypical marathoner mold? Its a bunch of bull.

  3. Ben - loved your post but mainly the pictures. Each one made me smile progressively wider! Sadly, some people just don't filter or think before they speak. Too many, really. Kudos to you for biting your tongue.

    Rachelle - put me in the 'nerd-who-wears-medals' category. Last year my hockey team FINALLY won our league division championship. I wore it the rest of the day, even into P.F. Chang's where the waitress asked me if it was an Olympic medal. How cute, but no! :) And I took it to work the next day and hung it in my cubicle.

  4. That's not right at all. Who does that? If you think that, why ask? You have so much class that you didn't ream her out right there.

  5. My wife alerted me to your post. I give you credit for biting your tongue and for trying to understand why she might have said it (i.e. "this is probably the first race she's ever been around . . .").

    I thought of your blog when I read Ted King's blog today. Ted's a professional cyclist on one of the best teams in the world. He's a two-time Giro d'Italia finisher. He's from NH, and he was in town (taking a break from his living/training/racing in Europe) for the Boston Marathon. In his blog today, reflecting on what he saw at Boston, Ted wrote, "The diversity of runners is phenomenal – all ages, all body types, all with a different reason or story for doing the race."

    Undoubtedly, Ted is in the top 1% of athletes on the planet, but to him, the fact that not everyone looks like him is a GOOD thing. And I think that it takes an athlete to understand this. The lady at the finish line had never actually crossed a finish line, and because of that, I don't think she gets it.

  6. What a jerk that woman was for saying that. This was a great post and I love what you say about what marathoners look like.

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog :) I followed you back here and started reading (backwards of course).
    I love this post--there is no mold that people fit into no matter what and it is important to remember that. Clearly, she does not know what a kickass triathlete looks like right??