I have this friend on Twitter – well, to actually say we are friends might be a little weird considering that we have never met. We are also very different in our world views (though probably not as different as our politicians and media would like us to believe).
He is Red. I am Blue.
He is voting for Romney. I am voting for Obama.
Our views on domestic, foreign and social policy fall on the Right and Left side of the aisle respectively.
There is very little that he and I agree on.
However, were I ever to come face to face with this Twitter friend, I would probably hug him like a long lost sibling. I guarantee that we would find the closest bar and share many beers while we debate politics and both laugh and cry together at the state of today’s government (well, maybe he would laugh while I cry and I would laugh while he cries). At the end of the evening we would shake hands heartily, exchange a warm hug and be on our ways back to Red and Blue land.
How is this even possible? How is that when our Congress(wo)men shout at each other instead of talking to each other, when we see protestors getting violent with each other on TV, when we have finger pointing but no accountability on either side that I am so sure this Twitter friend and I would get along just fine?
Because we are both runners – long distance, minimalist runners. We are living proof of people who, in his words, get “the most rewarding parts of running – camaraderie and self improvement”.
We have a bond that crosses time, politics, gender and religion. Is long-distance running stronger than those topics? No, but it allows us realize and understand that despite our differences, we are one people; that, in the words Bill Clinton spoke so eloquently last, “we are all in it together”.
This is one of the many reasons I love running, particularly long-distance running. The long distance running community doesn’t care if you are Red or Blue, it doesn’t care if you are fast or slow, it doesn’t care what your race, religion or gender are. The community simply asks, do you run? Great! Then you are part of us.
Which is why it saddens me so much to read about a guy like Kip Litton. You can read an article on him in the New Yorker —>HERE<—-. I’m warning you now, the story is absolutely fascinating and hard to put down once started. In a nutshell, Litton is a marathoner who has cheated his way onto the podium with supposed sub-3:00 times in countless marathons (including three I raced in) all in the name of raising funds for his youngest child, who had cystic fibrosis. In reading the article and exploring the links in the story, despite being angry at Litton, I can’t help but feel some sadness as well.
On my Facebook page I poked fun at Paul Ryan for misclaiming (I don’t think that’s actually a word) that he had run a 2:50 something marathon. I have to admit, as a veteran of 10 marathons with a personal best of 3:19, I was a little miffed. It was almost as is he were taking the accomplishment of running 26.2 miles lightly. The truth is, Paul Ryan has run one marathon – one that he may not have even trained seriously for. He could very easily fall into the category of people who tell me, “oh, you missed qualifying for Boston by 8 minutes? I’m sure you’ll get it in the next one, no problem! I mean really, what’s 8 minutes out of three and half hours?” not realizing the magnitude of improving my pace by over 18 seconds per mile for 26.2 miles. Paul Ryan may be a fitness buff, but unless he’s competing in road races on a regular basis, it’s quite possible he had no clue about what he was saying. Like I said, I was miffed at Ryan, but in the end, it really didn’t matter – plus, I already was not voting for him based on his stance on social issues (a topic for another day and my other blog – http://luau2012.wordpress.com/)
But Litton is a different animal. Here is a guy who pathologically has cheated in marathon after marathon, denied any wrongdoing and completely missing the point of training and running these races. As my Red Twitter friend stated, the point of running, particularly longer distances, is the camaraderie and self-improvement. I would add one more thing – it’s about self-discovery – finding out just what you can accomplish with hard work. Ultimately, when you run a marathon or ultra-marathon, you are really only racing against, and for, one person – yourself; that same person that you go to bed with every night and wake up with and look in the mirror at every morning. When I ran my 3:19:19 at Smuttynose in 2010, I looked in the mirror the next morning knowing I had accomplished something I had never done before. I then looked at the various pictures of me running with friends, both old and just made during the race and celebrating with them afterward.
Camaraderie, self-improvement, self-discovery.
How does Kip Litton look in the mirror in the morning without looking at his own reflection with disappointment and disgust? and then how does he face those he may run with?
The mystery remains as to how Litton was able to cheat his way to his string of sub-3:00 marathons. We may never know exactly how he did it. He is, if nothing else, a great magician of the road.
But he will never understand the true joy that running can bring if you simply run YOUR best – the joy of friends, the joy of making oneself better, the joy of breaking through barriers.
***turns out that this type of behavior may not be unique to Litton – my buddy MK has pointed out a few incidences where others have been caught cheating. Here’s a video clip of a guy pretty much caught yet STILL denying any wrongdoing: