Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Short Post About a Long Run

… Not the long run, but a long run.

Okay, I don’t want to brag or anything, but it so happens that I’ve run the Chicago Marathon four times: in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006. Well, okay, yeah … I really do, in fact, want to brag, because running a marathon is, like, really hard. Sure, I’m pretty slow – I’m old, too. But like my brother-in-law Ed always says, anybody can run for two-and-a-half, three hours; it’s really hard to run for four or five.

Try it sometime. You’ll see.

But anyway, once you get into running marathons, especially if you train with a group like Team in Training like my wife and I did in 2005 and 2006, you gain entry into this sort of club were some really elite athletes hang out. It’s kind of like George Costanza and the forbidden city: “The legends are true.” And the thing I’ve noticed about a lot of athletes (and by athletes, I mean real athletes, not middle-aged, overweight five-or-more-hour-marathoners like me) is this: sometimes they just don’t get it. Sometimes – maybe often – they don’t realize that they have gifts they really didn’t earn; genetic gifts that allow them to run faster or longer or to be quicker or lither or stronger or whatever.

Yes, of course, the really good athletes expend a tremendous amount of time and energy and effort to exploit those gifts –training, competing, depriving themselves of sleep, obsessing over every detail, living and eating and breathing their particular sport. Which is something to appreciate, for sure. Michael Jordan wasn’t Michael Jordan just because he had boatloads of natural ability; Michael Jordan was Michael Jordan because he worked harder than everybody else, was more dedicated than everybody else, and was more willing to sacrifice whatever had to be sacrificed than everybody else. Without that hard work and dedication, Michael Jordan would’ve been, like, the greatest ball player your local Y had ever seen; with that hard work and dedication, he was a guy with an NCAA championship, an Olympic gold medal and … holy crap!six NBA titles. I totally get that; I even admire it.

Still, it amazes me how often athletes don’t get it. As in, don’t appreciate that they’ve got gifts no one else has. Case in point:

… Joe “McRunner” D’Amico proved hundreds of naysayers wrong Sunday, by completing the Los Angeles marathon in a personal best time after eating nothing but McDonald’s fast food for a month.

The Palatine [Illinois] dad’s time of 2 hours, 36 minutes and 13 seconds was 41 seconds faster than his previous record, and good enough for 29th place overall in the 26.2 mile race.

The 36-year-old munched 23 hamburgers, 24 chicken snack wraps, 63 cookies, three filet-o-fishes, 91 hotcakes and an Aberdeen Angus burger among the 99 McDonald’s meals he ate in the 30 days leading up to the race. His only deviation from the McDonald’s menu was tap water, an occasional runner’s gel supplement and a daily multivitamin.

Let me explain something to the uninitiated: If you can run a marathon in two hours and thirty-six minutes, you’re not human. Not like the rest of us are human, with human limitations. If you’re a seriously sub-three-hour marathoner, you have no idea what it’s like for the rest of us mere mortals to train for and run a race like that. None. You might as well be a different species. And most likely, you don’t even realize it.

So, the thing is, the story here isn’t that a guy ate crappy food for a month and ran a marathon; the story is a guy has these unbelievable (a weaker man might say unfair) genetic gifts that essentially mean he could’ve eaten anything and still run a freaking two hour and thirty-six minute marathon. It’s not the McDonald’s hamburgers that’re the story here; it’s the guy’s metabolism and genetic make up that enable him to burn fuel in a ridiculously efficient manner and enable him to force his body to do, like, otherworldly things. Like run a two hour and thirty-six minute marathon.

Envious? Hell yes I’m envious. I’ve had to kick my own ass so hard just to get across the finish line that it kind of makes me sick to think he could run a marathon in that kind of time; and the fact that he did it while eating junk food – delicious, delicious junk food – makes me even sicker.

But here’s my question: Other than showing off, what was the guy trying to accomplish? Yes, I know, he raised a lot of money for Ronald McDonald House Charities. But you know what? He could’ve raised money without eating junk food. Thousands of marathon runners raise money for charity; my wife and I did. Twice.

So, the junk food was what – a publicity stunt?

Or, was he trying to say it’s okay to eat really crappy food? Because if he was, he’s just dead wrong: The rest of us – the actual mortal human population – can’t and shouldn’t eat that kind of crap; not every day for a month, not even for a week. It’d kill the rest of us. Or just make us bloated, tired and sick feeling – like Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me.

Of course, I guarantee you that D’Amico’s success will inspire all sorts of folks to eat more fast food and think they can get away with it. Which, frankly, really sucks, because next to none of us has the kind of metabolism or genetic gifts a guy like D’Amico has. So, D’Amico will go on living in this otherworldly place where people run sub-three-hour marathons, and he’ll go on eating whatever he wants to eat. But the people who are “inspired” by him … they won’t be living in that place. They’ll just get fatter and more out of shape and they’ll more than likely never run a 10-K, let alone an insanely fast marathon.

So, um, nice goin’, Mr. D’Amico.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more on that one!

    I have a great idea, let's go out for Big Mac's and fries and then go running?