Rambling Roads: A Marathon Scam?

By George A. Hancock

October personifies our autumn season. Brilliant colors dot our landscape. Cooler temperatures and shorter days populate this month. This crisp, calm morning air is perfect for a daily run. We run fast or slow enjoying October’s majestic sights.

October’s 31 days offer the runner seasonal treasures. October is also the perfect month for longer runs or road races. Many runners schedule a marathon during this splendid season. The cooler temps and majestic views are a calming influence during a longer road event. Marathon runners generally run well during the October time frame. Or do they?

I stumbled across an intriguing book while searching for another. This book written by Ed SJC Park was published by Amazon in December 2012. Park has written three other books although these books deal more with casinos and gambling.

Park’s book is short at 73 pages. The title is: The Marathon Scam—Why You Should Never Run a Marathon and if You Do, How to Avoid Injury. 

I initially thought Park was writing about road racing as a non-profit organization fund raising event. My thought was incorrect. Park’s premise for this book could be somewhat politically incorrect these days.

I have two minor issues with Park’s book. My first issue is detailed on page 11. Park was writing about the 26.2 mile marathon distance. Park questioned the why behind this numerical distance. Park concludes the marathon 26.2 miles length is just a random number for people to keep questioning why that distance.

However, a simple Google search reveals the story behind the 26.2 mile marathon. The 26.2 mile marathon dates back to the 1908 Olympic Games held in London. The conventional story is that Queen Alexandra wanted the marathon to begin in the Windsor Castle gardens with a finish at the Royal Box at White City Stadium so the young royals could see the finish. The distance run was 26 miles and 385 yards or 26.2 miles. The Olympic Committee made this the standard marathon distance after the conclusion of the 1908 summer Olympic Games.

My second issue is found on page 57. Parks is writing about marathon preparation. Park stated: “No more recreational drugs except pot which is more medicinal than recreational.”

Granted this book was published in 2012. However, since that date our country has gathered vast information and witnessed many episodes in states where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes. That picture is bleak.

Nonetheless, Park’s basic premise is sound. Marathon running is not for everyone. Park came to long- distance running via competitive bicycle racing. Park was always a fit, serious athlete. Park described here the training required for successful bike racing.

Park has issue with these 20 week or so marathon training plans. Park argues this time frame is not sufficient for the average person to safely train for the 26.2 mile distance. Even if the marathon runner employs the popular run/walk method more training, more mileage is needed to avoid injuries.

Early on Park writes that the average American is overweight and seriously out of shape. Our modern 24/7 technological and visual culture is in sharp contrast to the movement required with daily exercise.  Running and walking every day while maintaining a balanced diet with proper rest seems alien to most individuals.

Of course, in many circles this reasoning is not politically correct. Some misguided race committees seek more runners to complete their race fields. So, challenges are offered for newer runners to attempt their first marathon while earning praise, stature, personal esteem, and a top-notch finisher’s medal.

Completing the necessary road work, developing a fitness level, mindset, and completing longer road events are deemed not necessary. Just follow the training plan to your personal marathon finish line.

Park also writes about poor running-shoe choices for newer marathon runners. Runners training and racing in the latest “hot” running shoes risk serious injury. New runners should seek professional help with their shoe choices.

Park writes on page 17 that “the main goal of a marathon is finishing it without sustaining life-long injuries.” This is a commendable goal. The right track here is adequate training, the right mindset, and maintaining a balanced nutritious diet.

Park offers practical running advice. Advice that appears in many running publications but perhaps is foreign to this new running generation. Peer pressure is a prevalent running issue. Peer pressure even existed in my day. There are numerous thought trains. A common thought is that you’re not a real runner until you complete a marathon. Park writes unless properly trained that reasoning line is a recipe for injury.

Park presents a superb argument on page 14. Park argues the best distance for most runners seeking a challenge is the half-marathon. Park suggest we delete the half-marathon name and use 20K.* Park writes “If your goal in life is to become fit and enjoy long-distance running, the ideal distance is 20K or what is referred to as the half-marathon.”

Park further states “Running a 20K for the average American is a noble, worthwhile goal, and not only are you significantly less likely to get injured, but you are significantly more likely to enjoy it and spend the rest of your life running 20K and loving and enjoying running injury free.”

I enjoy reading about other runners and their road experiences. Ed Park offers readers his running perspective on the marathon. Plus, he writes about what works and fails in marathon training endeavors. I’m not thrilled with his recreational marijuana comments. We are now seven years past his book publication date. We collected valuable information from states where marijuana use is legal.

The Marathon Scam is a unique perspective. October is here. Get outside and enjoy the seasonal sights. Run well, Run smart!

* Editor’ note: To clarify—20K and half-marathon aren’t interchangeable. 20K is 12.4 miles and a half-marathon is 13.1. 

Categories: Features

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