Not Races

The beginnings of almost-autumn in Sacramento

One of the senior members of my running club had a birthday this last week. She and her husband are both in their nineties, pillars of the club and the 1970s golden era of running. Notably, this also would have been a time when women were less visible on the racing circuit.

Years ago, I distinctly remember having a conversation with her about the Boston Marathon, and a few of the other big name running events that so many runners aspire to qualify and do well in. But what surprised me most was her remark:

“These marathons aren’t races, they’re events.”

What? How could that be possible, I wondered.

After running my first marathon nearly ten years ago, I started to understand what she meant. I began to notice races, especially on the road, became more focused on the participation, the swag, and having fun. The things that most people would blame and complain about millennials. That we only do things for the obligatory participation ribbon and the brags for the ‘gram.

Could people just enjoy running without an external reward as an incentive? Could the sense of accomplishment be enough? For most people, no, running feels awful. I mentioned in Til the Next Aid Station that most people have a love or hate relationship with running, that there is no in-between.

So the reward becomes the shirt, the hot chocolate, the glowsticks. Memorably, there was one less-than-organized race I ran where the aid stations ran out of water and started serving beer. I can attest there are times you do want water more than beer.

What she meant was that in some respects the competitive nature, the driving force of the 1970s running boom, is becoming extinct. Or, for better or worse, it’s shifting. That’s no surprise given the sands of time and casting a larger net of inclusivity and accessibility.

It’s something I’ve wondered, too, about, cooking professionally and food media, especially as so many industry people are shifting to “content” creation to survive in a now-remote economy. It’s not solely about cooking as much as it is about making it Instagram-pretty.

Like so many things, maybe these changes aren’t good or bad, but they just are.

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