On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marathon Maniacs

I grew up in a running household with a dad who ran marathons. He wasn't super-fast - his times hovered around the 4-hour mark (which made him much more of a back-of-the-packer in the '80s than it would today) - but he was enough of a role model that I took running for granted when I was young, even as I was a chubby, bookish kid.* I didn't do it, I just knew that if someday I ever wanted to exercise, it would be through running.

My first marathon was the same experience as many people's: for 26 miles, I cursed myself out, saying, "I am NEVER doing this again!" A few minutes after the race ended, amnesia set in and my thoughts became, "When can I do my next one?"

I had this theory: I needed to do more than one marathon so I'd never be fat.  Anyone can run one marathon, but if you run more than one? You're a marathoner. And I mean, have you ever seen a fat marathoner?

Well, my first marathon was in 2000. Way back then (remember, I am old), marathons didn't sell out in hours or days or even weeks. A large marathon might have had 15,000 people, not 45,000. And the people my dad had run with - the wiry, scrawny hardcore runners - were still there in full effect. Team in Training, on the other hand, was barely a presence.

I told my sister my theory, and she said, "Um, Tracy? You can be fat and run a marathon."

So I had to run more marathons, obviously. And more. And more.

Last fall, I finally achieved another goal: I became eligible to join the Marathon Maniacs. And this fall, if I actually run Yonkers, NYCM, and the Flying Monkey, it will happen again. Finally! I can be recognized as a marathoner! Problem is, the minute I was eligible? I decided I didn't want it. Like Groucho Marx said, I didn't want to belong to any club that would take me as a member.

Nothing against any of the Maniacs, and there are several that I count amongst my friends, but I don't think that I'm the right fit for the club right now. I'm not "addicted to running marathons." I don't know - maybe it's just the characterization of "addiction" that I object to. Plus, given the expense of entry fees, it just doesn't seem logical to pay their (admittedly modest) membership dues. Like, do I really need another line item on my budget to support my expensive habit?

What do you think? Should I join, or not?

*I didn't participate in many children's races, but there was one notorious 1m race that I did with my brother. When my family saw us cross the finish line holding hands, they mocked me mercilessly for being pulled by my younger brother. For the record, I was pulling him. He had wanted to give up midway through but I helped him finish. And, being noble like that, I also kept his secret for the past 25 years.


  1. You DO kind of seem to be hooked on marathons though :-) I'd join the club - if it is $20 or less to do so!!!!

    For a distance that sounds like pure hell to me, it's a "why the hell not" for you. That means you and the distance are somewhat friendly. In a maniac type way :p

  2. They freak me out. They're... creepy addicted or something.

    There, I said it. I just buried it in the comments so no one would see it.

  3. You get an ugly yellow singlet and a number based upon the order in which you join. What more could you want?

  4. Ah, but no - you don't get the singlet unless you pay an extra $30 with your membership for it:
    And ugly is right. I mean, easily identifiable.

  5. Once you've run a marathon, you're a marathoner in my book. If I ever finish one (and that's a big if) I will probably start introducing myself as Brooke the Marathoner.

  6. I don't find you manaical, but given that you sign up for and complete marathons with the slightest provocation, I'd say you've earned the title. Or just start running with a sash of your own design so people have to ask about it.

    Camn, I got behind on reading your blog and there's some good shit on here. I'll never let it happen again!

  7. loved this story! my dad was also a runner back in the 70's and 80's and eventhough i didn't start having a relationship with him until recently, it's fun to think that my love of running is something he passed on to me.

  8. I also love the running dad stories! My parents liked to sit and read and be bookish and I think they honestly kind of got annoyed when I wanted to do sporty things. So I think it would have been cool to have a marathoner dad (I had an uncle. We manned a water stop for him once when I was like, 4.) Anyway, would joining Maniacs do something for you? Give you some ineffable boost or satisfaction or make you smile inside? Then you should do it. Otherwise, not. Unless you want to be a mole and report on the creepy secret marathon addict rituals, because that would make for some good blog posts.

  9. Hey, really great blog post… I've enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy you put into each post. I actually run AceHealth.org, a blog of my personal research and experiences. If you're interested, I would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: bob.mauer65(at)gmail(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  10. your post made me laugh.

    ididnt have very active parents so i think its super cool.

    i am not addicted to marathons but have an addictive personality and am addicted to running and races as a whole. so perhaps thats what you are too?

    also agree w ms duffy- could be potential writing material ;)