One thing I have always enjoyed about marathon running is the camaraderie and community associated with it.
Everyone who’s ever run a marathon has their own personal experience, and while those who’ve never ran a marathon often react to you with a sense of awe; your fellow marathoners will more often than not, react with a sense of empathy. The reason being is that it’s your fellow marathoners who really understand what running a marathon is all about and what it really takes to accomplish what is both a very challenging physical, as well as mental, feat.
Therefore, whether you are an elite runner or someone who’s running for the first time, the experience of a marathon really creates a sense of community that forms an unspoken bond that exists between us all.
I can’t begin to count the number people I’ve met and bonded with over the marathon experience. Whether it’s on a plane, at a party or even a business dinner, when you’re speaking with someone and suddenly the subject of a marathon comes up, it amazes me how suddenly you can go from being almost complete strangers to old friends. When sharing stories and experiences ranging from training to injuries to race day, the conversation between two marathoners can just take off and flow.
On the bus to Hopkinton, I personally love speaking with people about their qualifiers, as everyone always tends to have a great story and have qualified in different races from all over the country and the world. This is also a great way to find out about other races (or qualifiers) and what they’re really like. Sure when you’re at the Expo you’ll see a ton of booths promoting a lot of races, but nothing beats getting first hand information from someone who’s actually been on the course and crossed the finish line.
One thing about marathon running is that there really does seem to be a feeling of mutual respect that transcends the community. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a first-time runner, we all know that marathon running is an intense commitment, as well as experience. Running a marathon instills a tremendous sense of personal pride that’s not necessarily associated with the “time”, but more importantly the accomplishment. As a result, it’s something that everyone who’s run a marathon understands and contributes to it fostering such great community.
However, a fundamental reason that I personally believe that marathon running fosters such a great community is because at the core of it all it’s an intensely personal experience. Unless you are a true elite runner, when you’re out on the course the person you’re really competing against is yourself. Sure, there might be those few people around you that you mark as the ones to beat, but in reality, these people are not competitors, but rather subconscious motivators. Therefore, when on the course whether you’re goal is to set a PR of just cross the finish line, the person that you’re really competing against is yourself. As a result, when you cross the finish line the result is a sense of tremendous personal accomplishment that not many other “life experiences” can compete with.
It’s these personal experiences that help to create the larger community that we’re all a part of. It’s these personal experiences that make you want to say “Hey, I’ve been there too”. It’s these personal experiences that encourage you to lend a hand or to offer words of encouragement when you see someone struggling on the course.
In the end, it’s hard to pin down exactly the one thing that brings us all together, but maybe that’s exactly the reason why the community of marathon runners is so open, dynamic, accepting and vibrant.
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
- Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
- Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes