A post after my own heart! Over at Mark's Daily Apple, he examines what happens when you don't properly train for a marathon. The post breaks down the physiological affects of the effort required to complete the race. And if your body isn't equiped to handle the effort, bad, bad things happen.
As previous posts suggest, I have some experience on the endurance event front, and I can't say that I have ever gone into one ill-prepared. Partly because I'd be terrified at what would happen had I not properly trained, and partly because the joy I associate with marathoning is not limited to the event itself, but rather to the the entire 4-5 months of training involved with the commitment.
There are others, though, would underestimate or disrespect the distance. In the 2007 Honolulu Marathon, there were approximately 30,000 entrants. Many of these runners were families vacationing from Japan. Since JAL (Airlines) sponsors the event, the offer a package that sets up a vacation and race entry for visitors. The HUGE problem with this is that the race is filled with many unprepared participants. CHILDREN who looked about 12 years old were running this race - that is detrimental to their muscle and skeletal development. Men were pulling over to the side of the road to light up cigarettes. Groups and families take 14 hours to drag themselves across the line.
It bothers me not because they are taking up race space. I am fully supportive of The Penguin and his slow and steady philosophy. Marathoning CAN BE for everyone. But I respect marathoners not because they make the 26.2 mile journey. I respect them because when I stand with the crowd at the starting line, I feel a commaraderie with people who have also spent their weekends running long runs, eating gels and popping blisters. It is the preparation for the marathon that deserves the respect. As many endurance athletes know, the event is just a day (albeit an important one) that caps a lengthy training season.