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The Marathon and the beauty of its diversity

Posted by Ty Velde  February 23, 2014 11:23 PM

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As the Winter Games in Sochi now come to a close, I have to admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them. The games have been “appointment television” in our household for the past two weeks and the thought of a prime-time schedule not packed with the skeleton, skiing, or snowboarding is somewhat sad.

While there certainly is something very special about an international sporting spectacle that occurs just once every four years, when I reflect on the past few weeks in terms of what has really attracted me to the Olympic Games, one theme that keeps coming to mind is diversity. The diversity of the Olympic Games occurs on many levels from the number of nations who participate to the variety of athletes who compete, and also within the context of the varying interests of the spectators. Ultimately what I find so incredibly special and unique of about these varying factors of diversity is that despite the differences that the Olympics showcase, they also bring us all together under the united banner of global citizenship.

As I thought more about this idea, it also got me thinking about the many factors that make the marathon such as wonderful and unique event. While the answers here are many, when thinking about beauty within the diversity of the Olympics, I also began to see many direct and parallel correlations with the marathon. In short, I’ve come to the realization that one of the true factors that makes the marathon such an incredibly special and unique event, much like the Olympics, lies in the beauty of its diversity.

International diversity
One of the truly great features of the Olympics is that they are a true showcase of the global diversity of the world in which we live in. It's this feature that also ensures they command the world as a whole, versus that of a single nation.

Likewise, anyone who has run any of the larger marathons (Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin) knows that its ranks are populated with a huge international contingency. The 2013 New York City Marathon had 19,000 international participants which accounted for approximately 40% of all registered runners. Likewise, the 2013 Boston Marathon had representation from 96 countries of citizenship and 74 countries of residence among all who entered. In short, it's this kind of international diversity and participation that elevates the marathon from that of being just a regional race, to that of a truly global event and is a big reason why the race is such a special event to be a part of.

Athletic diversity
While those who participate in the Olympics are at the peak of their particular sport, I still find the diversity of the athletes who are showcased very interesting, from bobsledders to Alpine skiers to curlers to ice dancers.

Likewise, the marathon is also true showcase of athletic diversity. While there are the elite runners blazing through the course, the marathon primarily attracts and is comprised of runners from all walks of life. Some are fast, some are slow, some are struggling and some actually look like they are having the time of their life. However, what makes the marathon wonderful is that when it comes to athletic ability, it does not discriminate. The marathon welcomes all who are willing to undertake the challenge with open arms.

In short, I truly believe that one of the facets that has made the marathon such a popular and powerful event is the range of athletic diversity it caters to. I believe this is why so many people desire to take on the challenge of a 26.2 mile race, and I also believe that this why so many people also choose to watch and support those who are running.

Diversity of interests
Clearly one of the great things about the Olympic Games is the diversity of interests. From hockey to skating to the luge to the biathlon, the diversity of the Olympics is designed to appeal to both your sense of passion and curiosity. Ultimately, I believe that when it comes to understanding why so many choose to watch the Olympics, a key reason lies within the diversity of interests that they appeal to.

Likewise, when I think about why so many people choose to watch the marathon, I do believe that it’s in part due to the diversity of interests that the marathon connects with. There are those who watch to see the elites run and witness their grace and power. There are those who watch to support and cheer on a friend or a loved one. There are those who watch to simply cheer on and support a complete stranger, for no other reason than pure compassion. And of course there are those who are just out on the course to “celebrate life” and have a good time. No matter what the reason may be, one thing that cannot be denied is that when it comes to those who watch the marathon and line the streets that we all run along, the marathon connects with a wide diversity of interests. Whether you realize or not, the beauty of this diversity is that when you are running, it’s something we all benefit and draw strength from as we journey from the start all the way to the finish.

In the years I have been running marathons, I have come to realize there are so many things about them that make each one incredibly special. However, when viewed as a whole, one thing that makes the marathon so powerful is the community that surrounds it and what I have come to realize is that a huge part of the strength of that community lies in its diversity.

From the nations that are represented to the runners that choose to race to the throngs of crowds that line the course and support us all, the power of the marathon's diversity is consistently displayed on many levels. Ultimately, when you take a step back and look at the diversity that surrounds the marathon, you can clearly see a key reason as to why it is so much more than just a race and such a part of the fabric of the local and global community that we are all a part of.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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