Even if you don’t give a hoot about football, basketball, or baseball, it’s pretty hard to avoid these sports when their seasons are in full swing. On the other hand, it usually requires a special effort simply to watch a marathon. Such was the case this morning when I woke up at 4 am (Pacific Time) to witness the Olympic Men’s Marathon, which according to Saturday’s newpaper was the starting time. Unfortunately, the paper was wrong and when I turned on the TV expecting to see a bunch of muscularly lithe athletes nervously awaiting the starting gun, the race was nearly an hour old. By that time US runners Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman had already dropped out, and Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang had taken the lead at 12 miles. The race was noteworthy in that Ugandan Stephan Kiprotich won the first Gold medal in the marathon for his country and American Meb Keflizeghi rallied from way back in 14th at the half-way point to finish 4th. For an Olympics with so many distance races full of suspense and drama, this one was a bit of a snoozer.
But still I watched. Runner’s are used to the special efforts usually required to watch a marathon on TV. We often wake up early and toil in anonymity. We’ve dealt with tedious discomfort, which comes in handy when the race coverage turns away from the race for yet another tired “up close and personal” segment. And while a distance race often involves very slowly developing action where eventual winners become obvious miles from the finish line, we still give the runners our undivided attention even if hardly anyone else cares or notices, because we directly appreciate what they’ve going through.
Many runners have at in one point in their lives, gone through the hard work and discpline required to complete all 26.2 miles of a marathon, giving us a connection to the marathon athletes that’s rarely found amoung fans of the major spectator sports. It’s what makes getting up in the dead of night worth it.