- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

News of the death of Hilary Bellamy, who tried to run her first marathon during last Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon, spread rapidly around the area's running community.
Anytime there is a death in a race Bellamy died Tuesday after she dropped out of the race in mile 21 it is a concern for everybody in the sport. The initial reaction is no different than what we experience when a professional basketball player collapses on the court or a high school football player dies on the field.
But what transpired after the initial shock was a reaction clearly manifested in today's running society.
The
question: what constitutes "running" a marathon? Finishing under four hours, or five hours, or six hours or just finishing, even if you walked the entire way?
The lines quickly formed, as they have for years. The faster, more experienced marathoners vs. the slower, less experienced ones. And of the latter, the finger is always pointed at the charity training groups.
It got nasty, and it got personal.
But one comment finally brought clarity to me. It summed up why the more experienced, faster marathoners get so frustrated with their less experienced, slower counterparts.
A woman in one of the running e-groups, in defending the charity training programs of which Bellamy was a part, told her fellow runners that she "can run with the best of you." This woman's Marine Corps time was a shuffle over five hours.
Yes, she was in the same race as the winners who covered the same distance in less than 2 hours. Yes, she was in the same race as many of the other e-group members, who finished in three hours or so.
But to say she "ran with the best of you" would be like me hitting a few homers over the fence at some small ballpark down the street and screaming that I can hit with Barry Bonds.
Much of this attitude has been fostered by 10,000-meter Olympian Jeff Galloway (1972), who told the masses nearly a decade ago that it was OK to walk in a marathon. His program focuses on a progressively longer weekend run done with walking breaks, very low overall mileage and walking breaks during marathons.
Frankly, I couldn't give a hoot about what Galloway says because he has found his niche in becoming one of the few runners of the '70s, even '80s and '90s, to make money off the newfound masses in the sport. Even if it goes against everything he was as a competitive marathoner (fourth in the '72 Olympic Trials).
The appeal is that anybody with a pulse can run a marathon, even if it requires walking much of the way. That is not how the sport started out, and until recently, that is not how the sport had developed. So there is great frustration coming from the traditionalists who feel their turf has been invaded by imposters.
But why must newcomers go straight to the marathon?
Isn't 13.1 miles enough to start with? I wouldn't set my initial sights on Mount Everest without taking a few test climbs on lesser obstacles. Actually, my first marathon in 1980 was run during my junior year of college, after four years of high school running and three years of college cross country training of 120 miles per week. I still suffered during 26.2.
If after completing the half-marathon, you want to work the next year on tackling the marathon, I imagine your experience would be more enjoyable.
Wouldn't the charity programs better serve their runners by starting with half-marathon training programs? I cannot imagine that the charity programs would bring in any less money from people doing "only" a half-marathon vs. doing the marathon.
Big Apple bytes
Running enthusiasts turn to New York City today for the 33rd New York City Marathon. The elite women begin at 10:35a.m., with the rest of the runners taking off from the Staten Island side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at 11:10a.m.
Race highlights shown from 3 to 4p.m. on NBC (Channel 4).
To watch the progress of the race, and track your favorite runners, go to the Web site www.nyrrc.org/marathon.
Marine Corps note
Of the estimated 22,400 entries this year, just 14,621 started. Is this a case for opening registration closer to race day, like at the end of summer?

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