Run for the Life: a look into Marathon

When I decided to sign up for my first full marathon in Hawaii, I didn’t think of the reason I like marathon and the reason I wanted to take part in a marathon was just the reasons for marathon lovers in the past. I like marathon because it is a sport that could make me feel good about myself. Completing a marathon suggests I have an indefatigable and positive attitude towards life. “You are the one who can run 26.2 miles for one time, what other things that could defeat you?” Every marathon runner could get this impression when they finish one. And the reason Marathon is loved by people throughout history is that it is such a democratic sport that almost everyone could feel and be inspired with its spirit. No expensive apparatus to buy, just a pair of comfortable sneakers and your courage. However, everyone knows that running 26.2 miles is demanding and could not be attained easily. The combination of accessibility and insurmountablity bring people at different periods to admire this game.


The first Marathon was held in 1896 Olympic Game in Greece to commemorate the Greek war happened in the ancient Marathon town. It was certain that the sport was designed to be insurmountable as it was supposed to remind people of the ancient glory coming with effort and blood. In fact, there was only 15 runners participated in 1896 Marathon, and only 8 completed it. After 1896, Boston Athletic Association(BAA) held Boston Marathon almost every year, which became one of the most prominent Marathon games. The designers might not anticipate the extent of masochistic nature of human beings. Within decades, the tedious and seemingly insurmountable marathon became popular, and many people took part in it as a ritual to ignite their passion for life. 1903 Marathon runner John C Lorden ran as a defiance to his doctor, who claimed that his physical condition prohibited him from taking in any intense activity. And through successfully completing a Marathon, Lorden proved himself more capable than his doctor claimed. And a more recent runner Jack Fultz, who won the 1977 Boston Marathon, ran the marathon because he did not want to “work just for the sake of weekly paychecks”. These are brave men who interpreted the marathon spirit, which is never to conform into an unsatisfactory life.


But Marathon spirit not only affects individuals but also affects communities. In 1942, which was during a heat moment in WW2, Boston governor “requested that the race be run on Sunday instead so defense workers could watch” because “a nation needs men of stamina and physical endurance”. And interestingly, the 1945 Boston Marathon held the smallest field since 1903 as there were only 56 runners showing up. 1945 was the year in vicinity to the victory of WW2, with Berlin being besieged and Japan approaching surrender. It was not sure that the reason that American did not take part in 1945 Marathon was that they did not need much stamina since they had already seen the victory, but it is sure that Marathon could inspire people in harsh time.


It is also interesting to see that Marathon, as a non-team sport, could inspire communities through individuals. Usually, it is the excellent cooperation in a team game that brings up a strong sense of togetherness among spectators. However, although marathon is a game performed by individuals, modern marathon runners feel it a res

ponsibility and honor to represent their communities. National pride is one reason that the runners struggle for. In 1951 when Japan was under the conquer of General McArthur, some Japanese took part in the Boston Marathon in order to show their strong will and capability. And the female runner Wanda Panfil who ran in 1992 Marathon said she had the duty to run for her gender. The glory of running a marathon expands from individual runners to the communities they stand for. In these cases, the Japanese and Wanda Panfil were underdogs in international prestige and gender disadvantage, and they both chose Marathon to perform their strength.


And as mentioned in the beginning, Marathon has been a democratic sport accessible to everyone, and is becoming even profitable. Some poor people would even like to “pay” for a running. In 1937, which was when the American started its economic booming, an unemployed man Walter Young pawned his previous wallet he won in the 20-miler for money to cover the Marathon race. And BAA “finally accepted that top athletes received money for top performances” in 1986. This attracted many competitive African runners, who could make a one-year earning for their family for just showing up on the race and ranking high. These further prove the universal spirit of Marathon. Life is miserable, but people can run Marathon, eithe

r for a kick in life or for money to make better life.


In 2016 Hawaii marathon, I spent seven and a half hours completing it, which was a really “amateur” performance. But still, I felt the stamina of this game when I saw people applauding for an over-80-year-old elderly pacing on the race track. This has been the marathon spirit, an indomitable and positive attitude towards life, and marathon spirit never dies.

Sutcliffe, Mark, and Bart Yasso. Long Road to Boston: The Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Marathon. Ottawa: Great River Media, 2016.
Derderian, Tom. Boston Marathon: Year-by-year Stories of the World’s Premier Running Event. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.

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