The Marine Corps Marathon sold out in 28 hours. Boston, with its qualifying standards, filled up in only eight hours. NYC could probably have 100,000 runners every year, if it wouldn’t be a logistical nightmare. Running, it seems, is more popular than ever. Or is it?
Does the popularity of these major races really reflect an increase in serious running, or is it, perhaps, indicative of something else? It seems to me that running a popular marathon has become trendy with everyone from famous actors, to overweight weathermen, to athletes from other sports running them. This leads to everyone wanting to get in on the act. This is great news for the race directors of these races who are able to bring in large amounts of money for their organizations and themselves. It is great for the shoe companies, whose top of the line kicks are selling for $140. Is it great for running?
Some will argue, paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, that there will be a trickle down effect. In other words, even if people first sign up for races for all sorts of less than ideal reasons, many will discover the joys of running. I am not so sure. Having run in a few smaller races, it seems to me that those races without huge crowds, fancy race shirts and cool destinations are not filling up so quickly. If you are looking to be trendy, it is one thing to tell the guy at work that you ran the New York City Marathon; entirely another to say you ran the Bob Potts Marathon (real race, high percentage of BQers). Furthermore, for those who aspire to run a race in a fast (or at least faster) time, dodging undertrained runners who overestimated their finishing times can be very frustrating.
I love seeing new runners getting started, having been there myself. I do all that I can to encourage them. If you want to run a marathon, more power to you. If you are trying to cross off items on your bucket list, I hear skydiving is a blast.