Andy swam, biked and ran his first triathlon this morning. Our rec center had a “novice” course that was just right for our 8 year old: 150 meter swim, 3 mile bike, 1.5 mile run. Paul did the same course, side by side with our budding triathlete.
Every time Paul signs up for yet another one of these races, I ask him, “what’s stopping you from walking out the front door and running 26 miles right now? It’s free! I’ll even drive along side you and hand out Dixie cups full of Gatorade! Why do you need to pay someone money to do that?”
“Because then I don’t get the cool t-shirt,” he quips. Very droll.
But really, there is an outstanding proliferation of triathlons, marathons, half marathons, and all sorts of other grueling races these days. And it seems everyone is doing them! Not even people you would necessarily peg as athletes or even particularly fit. (Although, I admit, many do look pretty ripped.)
When I was a kid, I never heard of anyone in our neighborhood running a marathon. The only marathon I knew of was in Boston once a year and I can remember watching on TV the finalists crawl and stagger to the finish line like stranded Bedouins groping for an oasis.
Back then those kinds of races were reserved for die hards only–the running fanatics. Even in my high school cross country days, no one from my team even thought to sign up for a marathon, the distance of which killed ancient Greece’s best runner. We saw those poor people in Boston and thought, “No thanks!”
But now everyone is doing them. To be honest, I’m starting to feel a bit insecure being the only thirtysomething within a 50 mile radius who doesn’t have a cool t-shirt emblazened with sponsor logos and a Herculean feat.
What’s with all the crazy races? Is it our knee jerk reaction to our obesity epidemic? Is it because we are no longer 20 and we just have to prove that we still “got it?” (Come to think of it, I didn’t see any twentysomethings out there today. I guess they were all home sleeping in, still confident in their own “it” factors.)
Is it because our Regular Jo neighbor just got back from an Iron Man and we think, “well, if he can do it…” and then we get our own t-shirt and the neighbor across the street sees us working in the yard in it and thinks, “well, if she can do it…” and it all just snowballs?
But I see the appeal. Set a goal, train like crazy, and then the day of the race enjoy dozens of people whooping and shouting words of encouragement at every grueling turn. And the finish line? What a rush. Andy’s swim coaches were shouting his name, cheering like crazy. Andy doused his dad with water, they high fived, the whole bit. What an experience!
There’s another one in August. I think I’ll sign up.
But notice there are no “mommy-thon” t-shirts. That’s because it’s all training, no finish line.