Nothing is more rewarding than setting a difficult goal and accomplishing it. It is that underlying premise that has inspired Marathon huddled mass pretty much every race on the planet, whether it’s a footrace down the block, a marathon, or an Indy 500. But when an endeavor such as a marathon is meant to showcase one’s fitness, is praise for accomplishing this feat warranted or is it simply another sign that we as a society tend to reward mediocrity? Let’s first look at the numbers:
- Between the years 2000 and 2005, there have been 1,996,000 people who have finished a marathon in the United States alone… and 26% of those who finished a marathon in 2005 did so in a time greater than 7 hours (Marathon Guide).
- There are over 230 recorded members of the 100 marathon club, whose membership requires that you have finished over 100 marathons in your life (100 Marathon Club).
- The world record for completing a marathon is held by Haile Gebrselassie at a time of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 59 seconds. Of those who completed a marathon in 2005, 71.2% of them finished in a time that was twice as long as Haile’s best time (Marathon Guide).
- Over 300 individuals have completed a marathon in each of the 50 United States, some have even done it eight times (Wiki).
- A 400-pound man has completed a marathon, a 64-year-old man completed 105 in a single calendar year, and a 98-year-old man has also completed a marathon.
An argument that I hear from those who consider a marathon to be a huge accomplishment revolves around the total percentage of people who have run a marathon compared to those who have not. After all, it’s got a nice ring to it when someone brags that, “Only .1% of people have run a marathon”. However, we at Go Healthy Go Fit know that statistics can be misleading. So, sticking with the example of those who completed a marathon in the US in 2005, let’s try and get a better picture of what the competition looked like.
- The U.S. population was 288.4 million in 2005 (Census).
- Of that, “In 2005, among the total U.S. adult population surveyed, 60.5% were overweight, 23.9% were obese, and 3.0% were extremely obese.” (CDC).
- While it is true that many have completed a marathon in spite of a disability, it is reported that, “An estimated 7,602,000 people, or 2.8% of the population 5 and over, have difficulty performing self-care activities, also known as Activities of Daily Living, such as dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home…” in the year 2005 (CPAS).
So, in essence, completing a marathon is something of an accomplishment. But why then, in conversation, does bring up the fact that a person has completed a marathon have a better ring to it than describing a lifelong commitment to health and fitness? In fact, some would even go so far as to pigeon-toe the latter into an “obsessive” group of people who are commonly known as “gym rats”, “fitness freaks”, or what have you.
In my opinion, a dedication to health, fitness, and eating right serves as a much more selfless act than that of completing a marathon. While that’s not to say that you can’t-do both, some find that level of dedication to be too time-consuming and therefore strive for the one-time glory of running a marathon. I’m here to say that if it comes down to a choice between the two, just take a look at the numbers and realize that you are REALLY not alone if you decide to run the marathon.
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