Want to participate in a major sport? Try running
If you're reading this this morning, chances are somebody you know is spending today running, possibly in the rain, either 26.2 or 13.1 miles through the streets of Nashville. If it's Saturday afternoon or night or even later, maybe you yourself ran.
The Country Music Marathon annually brings some of the world's top runners and others who are serious about the sport, to the Music City.
It's been less than two weeks since the Boston Marathon and the tragic bombing which hit close to home - in the heart if not in physical distance - because folks from Wilson County and Middle Tennessee run it every year.
It's the premier event of running and one of the most recognized sporting events of the year. What makes this different from all of our other major events - Super Bowl, World Series, March Madness - is someone will run in Boston on Monday and be back at work right beside you the next. One of this city's elementary school principals has run it in the past. A former algebra student of my wife's ran this time.
A third-string offensive guard who never leaves the sideline during the Super Bowl is a celebrity and is off to Disney World the day after Super Sunday.
There are no celebrities in running. That third-string guard has better name recognition than this year's Boston winner. I can't name a single champion since Bill Rodgers ended his string of breaking the string more than 30 years ago. Rosie Ruiz, who literally took a short cut to becoming the women's winner in 1980 before being caught, is more [in]famous than any of the Kenyans or Nigerians who dominate the sport now.
People who run marathons aren't ordinary people. They have a discipline, determination and work ethic the average person doesn't have. What they are not - is famous.
On the other hand, just about any healthy person can do it if they have those aforementioned attributes. It doesn't take gargantuan size, strength or speed like it does to play in the NFL or NBA, nor the hand-eye coordination needed for the NHL or Major League Baseball. People who play in the four major sports leagues have God-given physical gifts that, while it takes much work and discipline to bring those talents out, separate them from the average person, no matter how determined that person may be.
Athletes in the Big Four leagues are, to some degree or another, celebrities. Runners, no matter how elite, are not.
It's interesting that ever since 9/11 we've been obsessed with protecting our major sporting events, figuring the Super Bowl would be a prime target for terrorists. Fans in the Super Bowl stands may or may not be celebrities, but most of them probably had money or connections to get tickets the average Joe Fan is shut out from. But if you can meet a qualifying time, anyone can run the Boston Marathon. And as far as I know, you don't need a ticket to watch it, either, just find a way to get to Boston and navigate the streets to find the course - same as for the Country Music Marathon.
Maybe that's one reason why the brothers [whose names I'm not going to try to spell] supposedly picked the marathon, other than it was held in their city. They could target regular, albeit extraordinary, Americans. Come to think of it, that's what happened on 9/11.