Amy Donaldson: Everyone should care that Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series will no longer support elite runners
The truth is that CGI built the RNR series on the backs of runners like Keflezighi. Having elite runners in town means a lot more media coverage.
That media coverage attracts recreational runners like me. And having thousands of people sign up for a race that they know they’ll never win is how a company like CGI makes millions.
CGI reportedly said in that email to sports agents that it planed to use the more than $400,000 that it spends on elite athletes to cater to the “back-of-the-pack” runners. Does that mean the end of $145 entry fees? Does that mean the races won’t run out of food and water for those of us who finish in four or five hours? Does that mean we won’t have to wait nearly 20 minutes after the gun goes off just to get across the start line?
Part of catering to us recreational runners is allowing us the opportunity to meet the athletes who inspire us. Running is a unique sport in that the business side is driven as much by those of us who just participate as it is by competitive athletes.
How many recreational basketball players get to compete on the same court as the NBA’s best? How many recreational tennis players get to play in the same tournament as the world’s best?
That is part of the magic of a marathon.
When I run a race, I line up at the same start line, cover the same course and cross the same finish line as the sport’s elite athletes. The reason the energy at a marathon is special is because we recreational runners are part of the same race where world records are set.
If CGI is really interested in investing in the back-of-the-pack, they should do more to put us in touch with and in the same room as the sport’s most elite athletes. I don’t want more bananas and bagels; I want to an hour with Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor.
It’s in listening to their stories that I’ve decided to change my own mind about what’s possible for me. It is in understanding their accomplishments that I’ve chosen different, more difficult paths for myself.
And it’s in witnessing their greatness that I feel more power in what I’m able to accomplish in my own much smaller universe.
I may not know what it feels like to break the tape, but I know what it’s like to drag myself miles and miles past what I thought was possible. I know what it’s like to feel like I can’t possibly take another step — and then take 1,000 more.
And maybe most importantly, I understand the symbiotic relationship between runners like Keflezighi and Kastor and joggers like myself. CGI’s refusal to support them means they are refusing to invest in the continued development of the sport that has enriched countless lives.
At the end of the day, runners, whether they’re competitive racers or weekend warriors, are part of a community that values commitment to the accomplishments of us all.
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