A few days ago, a reader passed along a link to a brief online Q&A with a runner named Alex J. Taylor, of Somerville, Mass.
Alex is fast. He finished this year's Boston Marathon in 2:22:19, a PR.
That's not why the reader passed along the link, though. The reader passed along the link because she found some of the questions (obviously posed by a non-runner) amusing.
Questions such as, "How is Somerville as a jogging city?" And, "Why participate in such a grueling sport? Aren't there other sports that are just as fun but not as punishing?"
My favorite bit, however, came during Alex's response to the question, "How do you like the crowds drinking beer and passing out cups of water along the (Boston) racecourse?"…
The crowds along the Boston Marathon route are the best of any race I've ever been to. They're very supportive and they give a lot of support to local runners in particular. The running community is big in the greater Boston area, so I get to see a lot of familiar faces along the way of runners that aren't competing who come out to watch and cheer everyone on. My favorite person handing out food/water along the course was a little girl in Natick who insisted that her orange slices were getting lonely.
So this guy, clearly an experienced runner, shows up to run what is possibly the world's most prestigious marathon; takes off in a field of 27,000; follows an historic, landmark-filled course lined with hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators, including screaming college women; and crosses the finish line in a personal-best time, amid the spine-tingling roar that is Boylston Street. He does all of this over a period of hours, and his most persistent memory is…
A little girl in Natick who insisted that her orange slices were getting lonely.
That bit touched me, for two reasons:
1. It's adorable.
2. It says so much about the beauty of running in general, and marathon running in particular.
That thing, of course, is running's ability to clarify.
This is what many people, especially non-runners, just don't get about running: That if you do it long enough, and keep your mind open enough, it can bring certain seemingly trivial details into super-sharp focus. That it can make you notice things, and appreciate them — sometimes in much deeper ways than you ever expected to.
Every time it happens, at least to me, it gives me a little buzz. And makes me feel a little bit more alive. Little moments like the girl with the orange slices turn out to be not little at all. They're huge, and they always feel like gifts, from running to you.
Are there "other sports that are just as fun but not as punishing?" Maybe.
But maybe that's the wrong question.
Attention, Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Area Runners!
If you're running this weekend's Lehigh Valley Half-Marathon and 5-K — or, heck, if you just live nearby, come meet a few Runner's World staffers at the race expo this Saturday:
Amby Burfoot, signing copies of The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life
Budd Coates (9:00 – 5:00), promoting CoreSliders and signing copies of Run Your Butt Off!
Sarah Lorge Butler, delivering a talk on Run Your Butt Off!, at 9:00, then signing copies of the book afterward
Charlie Butler (10:00 – 5:00), signing copies of The Long Run and delivering a talk on the book's subject, Matt Long, at 2:00
Mark Remy (10:00 – 2:00-ish), signing copies of The Runner's Rule Book and The Runner's Field Manual
Where: Holiday Inn Allentown, 904 West Hamilton Street (click here for details and map)