On the drive to work this morning, I listened to a live concert recording of an artist whose best stuff (in my humble opinon) is rarely heard; his most sappy dreck gets lots of "soft rock" airplay, however. Thirty-plus years in the music business, and never once did he look the part of the typical pop star. There was a year where his tunes were on everybody's favorite radio station. He still talks self-deprecatingly about his "'fifteen minutes of fame' at the top" of the music business, a little over three decades ago.
How much alike, the "fifteen minutes of fame" and the marathon. There is no such thing in the entertainment business as an "overnight sensation." Each "minute" of the "fifteen minutes of fame" was more likely the end result of more rehearsal spaces, ramen noodles, rough commutes, and relationship hassles than "right place, right time" situations.
Follow any major marathon from the Rock n' Roll Series to the Marathon Majors, as well as the World Championships and Olympics, and everybody focuses almost solely on the 26 miles, 385 yards of race day. That's the cherry of the sundae, the tip of the iceberg, the nose of the hound dog. Very few focus on the 1000-to-1600 miles of preparation, depending on the training plan, the average citizen spends get to the starting line. That's, on average, six-to-ten days of a life preparing for four hours. And small change. On the average.
I'm not saying, as Bill Bowerman once mused about the non-running world, that we engage in "a frivolous activity." What I am saying, especially about the marathon distance, is that it's not for every runner. About a year ago, my friend Charley recommended I watch the movie "Run Fatboy Run." My wife went and bought the DVD and we watched it one evening. I won't ruin the plot for those of you who haven't seen it, but in 25 words or less:
A guy decides to make himself look good in the eyes of his ex-girlfriend by running a marathon. He's sorely unprepared for the task.
I have friends who, for some insane reason, "jump into" events on little (undertrained better than overtrained) or no training whatsoever. If they were fitness buffs they might probably say to themselves along the way "this was a bad idea." Usually when I see them after the event they tell me, with not only perfect but magnified hindsight, they would never do it that way again.
Naturally, every person is a unique individual, and for every participant in a race there are many reasons to participate:
Some want to beat everyone who's ever run the distance.
Some want to beat everyone who's toeing the line on the day.
Some want to beat their best time.
Some want to beat their last time.
Some want to post a time.
When it comes to the marathon, I'm more in favor of the undertrained rather than the untrained state. While there's a lot of recovery (and the risk of injury) involved with the thousand-plus miles which lay between day one of the training plan and the finish line, I believe it makes the last 26.2 that much more possible...and even a little bit enjoyable.