To the Non-Running Brad Spencer:

First, how old are you, what do you weigh and what’s your resting pulse rate? Let’s match statistics.

Most of us dedicated runners do it for regular competition as well as for fitness. Every five years we’re in a new age division, so we’re competing against our peers in races of ALL distances, even the marathon. Maybe it comes down to lifestyle vs. games. The ex-college jocks who (maybe in their own minds) were great athletes, may now be those guys who park in front of the TV with a 6-pack to watch sports instead of actually participating. But in fairness, the sports of our youth usually can’t be played for very long; but running can- lifestyle vs. games. And for running you just step out the door, the ultimate no-frills sport.

As for the recent marathon (Chicago Marathon), I was there as a volunteer and conditions were brutal. But the experienced runners who were in good condition, with years of training and racing, generally hung in at a slower pace, and most of them finished. The marginal runners, many of them participating for charities, were having big problems.

It seems that many people have come to view the marathon as some sort of one-time goal, just to say they went the distance. That’s one reason the average Chicago Marathon finishing time has increased by over an hour in the past decade or so, and it’s why so many inexperienced runners are out there doing marathons. October 7 turned out to be the “perfect storm” where bad things happened.

So don’t confuse runners with participants. You’re right, nobody forced all those people to run, and some aid stations ran out of water, but I’d guess that many of the real runners made it to the end. They’ve had experience in all kinds of weather-it’s part of the sport. I’m no fan of marathons, but 5Ks, 10Ks and regular training runs have kept me in pretty good shape for a long time. I think I can count the days I’ve taken off work for illness over the last 25 years on the fingers of one hand.

Start running, Brad. I’ll even give you a free entry to next spring’s 5K here in Oak Park, The Race That’s Good for Life-it’s only 3.1 miles. By the way, Wednesday Journal is a sponsor.

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