Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Missing the Marathon

So, the Beijing Marathon has passed me by once again.

I'd realised some weeks ago that I just wasn't going to be able to get in any kind of shape to attempt the full distance, and - with my recent run of ill health - even half-distance might have been a bit too much of a challenge.

It's also a problem that it falls so close to my birthday: last year it was the day after, this year the day before. At this time of the year, I'd really far rather concentrate on getting together with friends for a few drinks than trying to run 26 miles.

I was, however, rather startled to realise that the event had slipped so far from the forefront of my mind (where it had been for a couple of months or so, until just two or three weeks ago) that I hadn't even remembered it was happening this Sunday.

A gorgeous day they managed for it as well (still using that Olympic Weather Machine, I guess). However, after watching a few videos of it on YouTube this afternoon, I am pretty thankful I didn't attempt it. The Beijing Marathon prides itself on being much the biggest race in China, and perhaps in the whole of Asia. It only achieves this by press-ganging tens of thousands of senior high school and university students into taking part - most of whom have never run more than a kilometre or two in their lives. In any big race it is a problem to fight your way through the crowds of runners in the early stages; but in Beijing, it seems to me, the crowds of competitors are even thicker, even slower-moving. And, with so many inexperienced and inadequately prepared runners taking part, there is, inevitably, a huge dropout rate - which does become rather dispiriting: in the second half of the race, you seem to be constantly passing scores of people who've slowed to a walk or a hobble, or had to give up completely because of cramps or muscle tears. (Warning: Turn down the volume control on your computer. These clips of last weekend's race are accompanied by the grisly Mandopop Olympic anthem One world, one dream. I'm sorry.)

So, maybe it's better to avoid the Beijing Marathon. But I'd like to do at least one more marathon in my life. Maybe the Great Wall event next May??

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