All the news outlets
are pumping the story of the Boston Marathon marine guy who crawled across the
finish line. I understand the superficial value of the story: all-American boy
does good; guy who lost his friends (in 2010) decides to do something difficult
in their honor and manages to complete the task through the force of true grit.
What I don't understand is why anyone thinks his story is more significant or
amazing than the story of the winners.
marine guy for running the Boston Marathon, and my sincere condolences for his
fallen friends. Still, there were hundreds of other runners at the Boston
Marathon this weekend who were running for similar reasons, and who managed to
finish ahead of this marine without crawling to the finish line. Why does
marine guy deserve a disproportionate share of attention and accolades? He
doesn't, at least, not for his marathon performance.
Every year, tens of
thousands of human beings finish a marathon. It's difficult to complete a
marathon, and it requires a lot of training, but it's feasible for most healthy
people to run a marathon at some point in their lives without being the
high-water mark of their existence. It's not that I want to pour cold water
over people's accomplishments, but neither should we over-inflate the
significance of a thing. The continuum between a huge accomplishment and a
mundane task is long and granular; if we cheer loudly for any minor
accomplishment, we risk ignoring truly great things. If we waste all our energy
on cheering for people who merely finish
a marathon, how much energy do we have left to cheer for the leaders?
Nor am I impressed
that he crawled across the finish line. Crawling across the finish line is not
the mark of great will power and determination, it's the mark of someone who
did not adequately prepare for the marathon. We should not ignore that fact just
because he ran for a noble cause. As runners, we must train in order to finish
our events safely and strongly. This is a serious matter, and we ought not lose
sight of its seriousness just because the media attempted to pull our heart
strings and mouse strings. Every year, thousands of athletes use the Boston
Marathon to fund-raise for charity and to call attention to many noble causes.
They manage to train effectively and they manage to finish the race. If we're
being frank, we must acknowledge that their accomplishments at the Boston
Marathon are superior to the guy who crawled across the finish line.
Marathons are tricky
business. Even a well-trained athlete can have a bad day and not finish the
race. Perhaps the marine came down with a cold or flu a few days before the
race, and ran despite being physically ill or exhausted. That's not worthless, but it's also not particularly great. The marine's friends did
not lose their lives so that this guy could hospitalize himself in an effort to
pay them tribute. It's good that he finished, but it's not newsworthy.
And we ought to be
able to say so.
We also ought to be
able to say this: the people who had the greatest accomplishment yesterday
morning were the top finishers: Lawrence Cherono and Worknesh Degefa. They may
not be former US marines who have seen active combat, but they had the best
marathon performances in Boston this year, and they deserve the highest