Are you a Marathon Bore?

Check out this great article by Michael Cowie of The Onion about the marathon he’s just run.

What do you mean, it’s satirical? Oh.

It may seem bizarre to us, but some people aren’t interested in marathons. What’s more, these people don’t even have the decency to be suitably awestruck when you tell them about your latest 26 miles of thrilling adventure, fulfilling achievement and blood-filled blisters.

Worst of all, instead of recognising you as a hero, they will dismiss you as a Marathon Bore.

The Marathon Bore is a breed of the pub bore or wedding-reception bore – but much worse. Because while the pub bore has a wide base of topics from which to launch long-winded and uninformed opinions, the Marathon Bore is limited to his specialised subject. Diet, training, gear, injuries – all manner of technical detail is showered upon the uninterested interlocuter who had merely enquired if the Marathon Bore was a guest of the bride or the groom.

The true pain caused by the Marathon Bore, though, comes not from his geekery but his moral superiority. Every marathon completed, every scaling of The Wall, is a triumph of the human spirit, so if you’re not running then you’re not triumphing.

Training for this feat demands a soul-searing level of personal sacrifice and dedication – a lunchtime run in the park every day, for instance. Save helpless children from a burning orphanage or find a cure for the common cold, but the Marathon Bore will still look down on you for having shirked the one true achievement of running 42 kilometres in under three hours.

For the Marathon Bore there’s only one thing worse than someone not running, and that’s someone running only a little. Make the mistake of telling him that you’ve ever done as much as a light jog around the block, and the Marathon Bore will immediately bring the full might of his peer pressure on you to run in next year’s Dublin Marathon. For him, the idea of someone running only short distances is a character flaw that can only be repaired by doing a marathon.

When a Marathon Bore talks of doing a marathon, he’s really talking about the training. His superiority comes from satisfaction with those regular runs at the crack of dawn or through the depths of winter – the proof of all that sacrifice and commitment. The race itself is almost an anti-climax, an obstacle to the next period of training. The Marathon Bore will not be running the race while dressed in a tutu.

A reliable sign that you, the marathon-training runner, are becoming a Bore is your reaction to being asked “How long is a marathon?” The Marathon Bore can never take seriously someone who asks this innocent question, nor limit his reply to an informative “Why, it’s just over 42 kilometres, which in old money is 26-and-a-bit miles”. This why nobody likes the Marathon Bore. (It’s not like asking how long the 100 metres is, you know.)

Mutations of the Marathon Bore include the Ultramarathon Bore (“What? You only run 26 miles?”) and the Triathlon Bore (“What? You only run?”). These two latter bores will actually look down on the Marathon Bore. Like cats hissing or chemicals mixing, these three bores should be kept apart.

Believe me, I do my best to avoid being a Marathon Bore. Usually I only talk running when someone asks me about it – and I try to pitch my answers to the person’s level of interest. Should a colleague notice that I’m walking gingerly, I just answer with a brief “Oh, out running last night” and fight the urge to describe the state of my inner knees in physiological detail. The Marathon Bore, of course, will make damn sure that every colleague in the building sees him walking gingerly and makes the appropriate sounds of admiration.

In my fight against the onset of Marathon Bore status, I was helped greatly by people stamping out its symptoms in me at an early stage in my running career. In particular, I think of some students of mine when I taught English in companies in Paris a few years ago. Feeling proud after I ran the 2007 Paris Marathon in 3 hours 27 minutes, the next day I told my students when they came in for their individual classes.

“Very good”, said one man in his early 50s. “When I was your age I ran it in 3 hours 12 minutes.” This man was now training to cycle the route of the Paris-Roubaix classic, the toughest one-day race in cycling. Lesson for Marathon Bores: there’s always someone faster and fitter than you.

Another student, a lady without much interest in sport, seemed unusually interested when I told her. “Oh, you ran in that race yesterday?”, she asked. I confirmed this and reclined contently in my chair to assume the admiration-receiving position. “So,” she hissed, “because of you the street was blocked and I couldn’t go to the market!”

Nobody likes a Marathon Bore.

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