Today, I found a bunch of people running around and chased after them on my bike. At least, that's what I've been telling people. I enjoy the incredulous stare. :-)
To give more context, a friend of mine (Ying-Hiu) was running in the Twin Cities Marathon today. I found her at mile 18, and proceeded to chase her along her route, getting ahead of her so I could yell encouragement and offer water.
She had a goal of 3 hours, 30 minutes, so she could qualify for the Boston marathon, which is one of the very few marathons that require participants have a qualifying time at some other marathon before they can run. It was pretty cool (about 20 degrees Celcius) and quite humid, to the point of water droplets collecting on my glasses when I biked. I think that was a bad combination in general.
Anyway, she didn't make it. I don't know what her time was yet, but I know she didn't qualify. She tried hard though. I have a lot of admiration for anybody who runs a marathon. It isn't for the faint of heart (pun intended for those who don't know me well).
Marathon running does require your body to be in condition to do it, but there's a big mental component too. It's hard to keep pushing yourself mile after mile. That's one of the reasons I went ahead to encourage her so much.
Anyway, the phenomenon of marathons made me think of achievement and challenges in our scociety, and now I'll proceed to ramble on about that.
One of the Unabomber's complaints about our society is that there are so few goals that most people can reasonably have that have any real meaning in the world. Sure, you can pick a goal that has personal meaning, but, in his view, that's just manufacturing a goal, and subliminating your desire for some real goal with strong real-world consequences, like survival.
To me, it seems, in some ways, marathon running is a perfect example. It isn't really done to honor the 26.2 mile run by the poor messenger from Greece who died after delivering his message. It isn't done because running is an important mode of transportation, and we want to encourage people who can run fast for long distances. No, it's largely so that each individual participant can prove to themselves that they can do it.
I think this is an interesting reflection on society and our places in it. I don't know whether it's good or bad, but I think it's interesting to ponder about.