I love running. I have run numerous marathons, half marathons, mountain races, and even an ultra. So I support running and races. Always.
However, I am a bit dubious about massive marathons these days and who they benefit, like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Seattle today, June 21. They clog city streets by closing major arterials for hours, outside companies who do not report their earnings pocket profits using public property and disrupt local businesses, and no proceeds from the event go to support local community sports events that cater to lower-income people who can’t afford race fees that are now $75 and even more.
I think cities need to support healthy events, like races. However, they can and should establish memoranda of understanding with companies, like the organizers of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, and require that these companies share some of the earnings made from public resources to support sports activities for the general public. Perhaps there can be a fund to support trail development and safer streets in areas that do not have nice parks for people of all ages. That way those inconvenienced by for-profit events can get future health benefits and the city can show its residents that the public inconvenience contributes to a public good.
Always these for-profit events have volunteers. These are the unsung heroes of any race. Anyone who has hit the last water stands loves those smiley faces, oranges, and water. The Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, which is almost entirely off-road and on trails and dirt roads at Joint Base Elmendorf-Fort Richardson, is my model of a great marathon. It is locally run (albeit supported by large corporate benefactors), supported by fund-raising groups like Team in Training, and well supported by local volunteers. Go Mayor’s. Here is a photo I snapped while running at about mile 9 as I ran the half marathon at Mayor’s in 2009, when I had a nasty pulled muscle and had to pull the plug on the full distance. I loved those cheery volunteers who lined the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to make my race day a memorable experience. Thanks volunteers!
(Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)