Life's a marathon. Some drop out early and some struggle on to the finish. Of the finishers, some are nearly crippled; others just take it in their stride. Personal physiology, psychological aptitude, training routines and, most significantly, the necessary economic circumstances to allow that training, all come into the equation. Which ever way you look at it, the marathon metaphor proves quite apt to life itself. Perhaps that is why I find myself increasingly drawn to the marathon as a form of sport worthy of human endeavour in the 21st century. Let's clear up a few things first though. I have never run a marathon of any type and, at nearly three score years, I have little prospect of doing so. The nearest I came to a sporting marathon came when, in my late teens, a buddy and I cycled leisurely from London to Athens, taking the Austrian Alps in our stride. We took the best part of a month, so it hardly rated as a feat of sporting endurance, rather a damn good cycling holiday with no time limits other than those we set ourselves. We averaged a hundred miles a day over the flat so perhaps I have some vague claim to marathon status. But that was then and this is now. Now I am content to polemicise about marathons rather than to actually run the things.

My attraction to marathons, in all their myriad forms, is more than simply a metaphoric one. I see in the proliferation of marathons, half marathons and any number of fun runs, cycle-thons, swima-thons, walkathons and all the rest of it, a new form of participatory sport that allows for the professional, the club enthusiast and the well meaning novice to rub shoulders in the same event. Here is a sporting phenomenon that is all about participation and only minimally about winning. To participate is to win. To reach the finish line is to be a gold medallist. To improve on your personal best is to be a world champion. It's not about financial enrichment  quite the opposite. It's a chance to raise money for others with no expectation of personal gain for anyone other than for the elite athletes. It is, in a sense, the antithesis of where professional sport is heading. Everybody has heard of the London and New York Marathons and the Great North Run is right up there with them. Pretty soon every capital city and every regional city will have their own marathon, if they don't already have one. But the marathon thing is starting to permeate to the towns and villages. That's where I might conceivable get involved. If my local borough were to organise a five mile community fun-run I might just be tempted. What if they, and every borough and shire across the country, organised one every month or even every week. That would certainly get the UK participation rates moving in the right direction. Make it free and make it spontaneous i.e. form free, and who knows just how many people might turn up each week. Make a donation to a charity at the finish line and everybody comes out on top. As for the London Olympics, I can understand why the organisers have swapped the Olympic marathon route to central London, with all its iconic landmarks, but I can equally see why the East London boroughs are hopping mad. My advice to them is to run their own community marathon on the exact same day as the Olympic Marathon and watch Lord Coe and Co squirm in their VIP boxes. The London Olympics is supposedly all about legacy and inspiring the next generation, so East London would be striking a blow for community participation by launching their very own annual marathon. Who could possibly complain? While the English Premier Football League, Formula 1 and now the Indian Premier Cricket League grow fat and bloated with corporate sponsorship and exorbitant ticket prices, marathons of every description offer a new and appealing direction for sport. Could it catch on? I think it already has.


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 May 2018 10:47 )