07 June 2010

26 Miles, 385 yards. A Greek Messenger’s impact on us all…

The History
According to the most popular accounts, Philippides was sent from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persian Army by the Greek Forces in Marathon. Upon reaching Athens he proclaimed “Rejoice, we conquer,” then he fell over and died. No one knows that this actually happened, but there are claims that he had run distance well over 100 miles before. It was not uncommon for messengers to run these distances as a way to pass messages along battle lines. Regardless of how it actually happened, 2000 years later the Olympics in Athens featured a Marathon Race. The winner was of course a Greek! That first race was slightly less than 25 miles. After that Olympics in 1896, Organizers from Boston, Ma, went back to the USA and started the Boston Marathon, which had its first running in 1897. Since then, the race had varied in its length until the 26.2 miles (42Km) was made the official distance in 1921; this was precipitated by the 1908 London Olympics decision to start the Marathon at Windsor Castle.
Note: Any distance over 26.2 miles is considered an Ultra-Marathon.

The Race Popularity
Marathons have become more popular as time goes on. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the number of women signing up for and running for distance races. In the very popular Flying Pig Marathon the number of finishers were 5,954/3,469 (women/men) in the Half Marathon. Also, it seems that road racing in general, and Marathoning specifically, are recession proof. Many races are filling up faster than recent years, in spite of the rise of registration prices. In 2010 The Chicago Marathon sold out in record time, 50 days; one month earlier than 2009. The New York City Marathon has used a lottery and Qualification Standards in recent years to allow people into the race. The historic Boston Marathon has decided to move its opening day of registration to 18 October 2010, to allow some of the early Fall Marathoners a chance to register. The 2010 edition of the race sold out on 13November2009 as opposed to the 2009 race, which sold out on 26 January 2009. This left races like Last Chance for Boston Marathon, contemplating a new name.

We’ve all heard our friends speak about their “Bucket List Marathon” ambitions and I wonder if many of them realize what this actually entails? I don’t know. I’ve been a runner in some form for the last 15 years, but I have no idea what to expect from the Marathon.  One way to get a small taste of the pain and the excitement is to race shorter distances. The Half Marathon has become a very popular race. In recent years registration for HM’s has gone up significantly, and now trumps Marathon Registrations. A lot of people see it as a worthy goal, but not as crazy as running a full 26.2 miles. Most Marathons now offer a companion HM race, which usually has more entrants than the main event. HM’s are run for a variety of reasons though. Many use it as a tune-up race for a Goal Marathon or as a fast workout to practice pacing and fueling. Then there are those who consider the race and distance all the challenge that they need. Let us just take a look at my Fall Tune-up and Goal Race. My Tune-up Half is the RnR Philadelphia Half Marathon (formerly the Philadelphia Distance Race-PDR); in 2009 they had 12,379 finishers (5,932 males and 6,447 females). My Goal Race is the Baltimore Under Armour Running Festival, in 2009 they had 3,152 Marathon finishers (2,033 males and 1,119 females). For those of you who say that I can’t compare the two races. Baltimore’s Half Marathon had 7,904 finishers (3,337 males and 4,567 females). Yes, I see the trend in female HM finishers as well. I do not know why, do you?

The Achievement
Earlier today a co-worker asked me why I am so into “this Marathon thing.” He mentioned how he’d like to join a league or play on a team sport. I agree that basketball and football are great sports. I love playing football more than I do running. But I cannot think of any other sport that I can literally compete in the same field and sport as the professionals. On any given weekend, I can run minutes or hours behind someone setting a new World Record in an event. In a race the size of a Marathon you are competing against people of all ages, races and sexes. It can be you against 50,000. I may never break 20 minutes in a 5k, 40 minutes in 10k, 1:20 in a Half or 3 hours in the Marathon; but I will finish the same race, I may get an age group award and if I stack the deck, I could win a non-competitive race all out!

But, as to the question “Why do people run Marathons?” there is no good answer I can give you. Results are as varied as the results, which are as diverse as the masses that run the miles. Some say that the actual Marathon Race is the reward for the training put in the previous weeks and months. Others compare the finish to the joy of giving birth; I’m not making this stuff up. One thing seems to be a constant in the people I’ve talked to and the books that I’ve read. That is this: when you cross the finish line of a Marathon regardless of time or place, it changes you. You now know that you have done something that many people either; cannot do, will not do, or have not done.  I won’t go so far as to say it will change your life forever, as some say. But many people have said how it has changed their perspective on many things. I’ll let you know on the evening of October 16th, what it’s done to me and for me.

The Numbers

Marathon All Time (men): 
2h03:59 Haile Gebrselassie Ethiopia 28 September 2008 Berlin
2h04:27 Duncan Kibet Kenya 5 April 2009 Rotterdam
2h04:27 James Kwambai Kenya 5 April 2009 Rotterdam
2h04:48 Patrick Makau Kenya 11 April 2010 Rotterdam
2h04:55 Paul Tergat Kenya 28 September 2003 Berlin
2h04:55 Geoffrey Mutai Kenya 11 April 2010 Rotterdam
2h04:56 Sammy Korir Kenya 28 September 2003 Berlin
2h05:04 Abel Kirui Kenya 5 April 2009 Rotterdam
2h05:10 Samuel Wanjiru Kenya 26 April 2009 London
2h05:13 Vincent Kipruto Kenya 11 April 2010 Rotterdam

Marathon All Time (Women):
2h15:25 Paula Radcliffe Great Britain 13 April 2003 London
2h18:47 Catherine Ndereba Kenya 7 October 2001 Chicago
2h19:12 Mizuki Noguchi Japan 25 September 2005 Berlin
2h19:19 Irina Mikitenko Germany 28 September 2008 Berlin
2h19:36 Deena Kastor United States 23 April 2006 London
2h19:39 Sun Yingjie China 19 October 2003 Beijing
2h19:41 Yoko Shibui Japan 26 September 2004 Berlin
2h19:46 Naoko Takahashi Japan 30 September 2001 Berlin
2h19:51 Zhou Chunxiu China 12 March 2006 Seoul
2h20:42 Berhane Adere Ethiopia 22 October 2006 Chicago

Marathon 2010 (Men):
2:04:48 Patrick Makau Musyoki KEN 02/03/1985 1 Rotterdam 11/04/2010
2:04:55 Geoffrey Kiprono Mutai KEN 07/10/1981 2 Rotterdam 11/04/2010
2:05:13 Vincent Kipruto KEN 13/09/1987 3 Rotterdam 11/04/2010
2:05:19 Tsegay Kebede ETH 15/01/1987 1 London 25/04/2010
2:05:23 Feyisa Lilesa ETH 01/02/1990 4 Rotterdam 11/04/2010
2:05:39 Eliud Kiptanui KEN 1 Praha 09/05/2010
2:05:52 Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot KEN 10/08/1988 1 Boston, MA 19/04/2010
2:06:09 Haile Gebrselassie ETH 18/04/1973 1 Dubai 22/01/2010
2:06:23 Emmanuel Kipchirchir Mutai KEN 12/10/1984 2 London 25/04/2010
2:06:33 Chala Dechase ETH 13/06/1984 2 Dubai 22/01/2010

Marathon 2010 (Women):
2:22:00 Liliya Shobukhova RUS 13/11/1977 1r1 London 25/04/2010
2:22:04 Atsede Baysa ETH 16/04/1987 1 Paris 11/04/2010
2:22:19 Inga Abitova RUS 06/03/1982 2r1 London 25/04/2010
2:22:38 Aselefech Mergia ETH 23/01/1985 3r1 London 25/04/2010
2:23:17 Bezunesh Bekele ETH 29/01/1983 4r1 London 25/04/2010
2:23:53 Teyba Erkesso ETH 30/10/1982 1 Houston, TX 17/01/2010
2:24:13 Amane Gobena ETH 1986 1 Seoul 21/03/2010
2:24:19 Mamitu Daska ETH 16/10/1983 1 Dubai 22/01/2010
2:24:22 Christelle Daunay FRA 05/12/1974 2 Paris 11/04/2010
2:24:26 Aberu Kebede ETH 12/09/1989 2 Dubai 22/01/2010

Marathon All Time-US (Men):
2:05:38 Khalid Khannouchi Ossining, NY 30 Flora London GBR 4/14/2002
2:05:56 Khannouchi (2) Ossining, NY 30 LaSalle Bank Chicago IL 10/13/2002
2:06:17 Ryan Hall (CA) Big Bear Lake, CA 25 Flora London Marathon GBR 4/13/2008
2:07:01 Khannouchi (3) Ossining, NY 28 LaSalle Bank Chicago IL 10/22/2000
2:07:04 Khannouchi (4) Ossining, NY 35 Flora London Marathon GBR 4/23/2006
2:08:24 Hall (2) Big Bear Lake, CA 24 Flora London Marathon GBR 4/22/2007
2:08:41 Hall (3) Big Bear Lake, CA 26 Boston Marathon 4/19/2010
2:08:44 Kannouchi (5) Ossining, NY 32 LaSalle Bank Chicago IL 10/10/2004
2:08:47a Bob Kempainen Minnetonka, MN 27 Boston MA 4/18/1994
2:08:52a Alberto Salazar Eugene, OR 23 Boston MA 4/19/1982

Marathon All Time-US (Women):
2:19:36 Deena Kastor Mammoth Lakes, CA 33 Flora London Marathon GBR 4/23/2006
2:21:16 Kastor (2) Mammoth Lakes, CA 30 Flora London GBR 4/13/2003
2:21:21 Joan Benoit Samuelson Freeport, ME 28 America's IL 10/20/1985
2:21:25 Kastor (3) Mammoth Lakes, CA 32 LaSalle Bank Chicago IL 10/9/2005
2:22:43a Benoit (2) Boston, MA 25 Boston MA 4/18/1983
2:24:52a Benoit (3) Freeport, ME 27 Olympics: Los Angeles CA 8/5/1984
2:25:53 Kara Goucher Portland, OR 29 Nike New York City Marathon 9/2/2008
2:26:11 Benoit (4) Watertown, MA 25 Nike OTC OR 9/12/1982
2:26:22 Magdalena  Lewy-Boulet Berkeley, Ca 36 Saucony Rotterdam Marathon 4/9/2010
2:26:26a Julie Brown Eugene, OR 28 Avon CA 6/5/1983

The most important thing in the marathon that I've learned is this: It does not matter if you finish your marathon in 2:00 or 6:00 hour time, when you hit that wall at mile 20, or 22 or 25, or when all your energy is reduced to putty in those last 6.2 miles and all you want to do is walk or sit by the curb, but you continue your journey one step after another, all the way to the finish line, well... you are nothing less than a hero at that moment. ~Lily

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