On Marathons & Misconceptions

There used to be a meme floating around F@cebook about F@cebook in college vs F@cebook in your 20s & 30s, basically in college your timeline is full of party pictures and other events whereas in your 20s & 30s your feed is filled with baby pictures and marathon times.

Well the joke’s on social media because the 20s & 30s timeline started in my college days, at least the marathon times part.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been friends with people who have considered themselves runners, probably just as long as I’ve had swimmer friends. In fact, I had friends who would just run laps around the playground at recess. I’d sit there and watch, wondering what the appeal was, because even if I could run there’s no way you’d see me doing it, especially for fun.

I’ve even had housemates who have never run a marathon before run in one because we lived in a town that hosted a marathon every year, while I stayed home and watched Walk The Line, again. Yup, I’m that person that can’t even be bothered to get up early to wish people luck, although I’m pretty sure I told at least one of them “just don’t die,” at some point before the day of the race.

During the 1st group retreat I made in the Northwest while people were asking each other how they liked their new homes. At this point most of the runners in the group were aware of the fact that my house was in a marathon city. There was a small window during that weekend where I thought we’d have countless people in our house, people we barely knew. Although I don’t think it would’ve bothered me as much by the time of the marathon came around, a small part of me is thankful that it never came to fruition.

I remember one person in particular asking me if I had heard about the marathon and if I was considering running it. Now I realize that at this point she had only just met me but I thought it was pretty clear that I was having some trouble getting around the wide open spaces of Eastern, flatter than flat, Montana. But then she asked if I ever thought of getting “one of those wheelchairs you can run with,” before I could laugh.

I explained that it was hard enough to get anything covered by insurance and something like a racing chair is horribly expensive, especially if it’s made well and for the user (which it should be whenever possible), and not covered by insurance because it’s considered recreational. Still she encouraged me to consider it “because people with disabilities run all the time.”

Lest we forget I find staring at a black line at the bottom of the pool a lot less boring than running just because. I’m aware it makes no sense to a majority of people but I’m not one of those people. I admit that running a marathon is mentally and physically challenging (like swimming) it’s just not a challenge I’d find fulfilling (I don’t think).

That being said if the so-called “runner’s high” is even a fraction of the rush you get after a sprint set with a new personal best time then I maybe, sort of, kind of, understand why people run.

I think the able-bodied community has misconceptions about persons with disabilities and sports. In my case it seems to be that people think I’m all into every sport I can get into or I participate in sports as a form of therapy (and I’m sure there are others out there I just haven’t heard them). The truth is, neither one is the case, for reasons to lengthy to get into here and now.

Honestly I had a negative point of view of adaptive sports for many years, partly because they seemed too separate from “real sports” for me. Also I was usually one of the least disabled kids participating so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just play with the normal kids, because I saw myself as more able-bodied than disabled.

Once I understood the true nature of adaptive sports I kept my ear to the ground but wasn’t very optimistic because adaptive sports costs money, just like able-bodied sports. And at that point, as well as this point, I don’t have much money for stuff I might quit anyway.

People with disabilities are more like those without disabilities than people think. I think I’ve said this before, and more than once. We’re just as apt to like sports or not like sports as everyone else.

However, I will say that whether or not someone has spent most of their life in physical therapy in exchange of, or in addition to normal childhood sports related activities can have an effect on whether or not they’ll participate in recreational sports later on.

Let’s not forget that things like having surgery and the recovery process can be marathons within themselves.

I realize that I probably just contradicted myself but my last 3 points in particular were ones that I feel needed to be made, even if it does make my point less clear, because my points, like life, aren’t always clear but still important.

Running is great, but it isn’t for everybody, regardless of ability. If the only grounds for participating in an activity was the slightest chance of basic ability, then almost anyone or rather almost everyone would participate in Ironman Kona, climb Kilimanjaro, be a multi gold medal winning Olympian, and God only knows what else.

Not everyone is meant to be good or interested in everything but if you know someone (or are someone) with a genuine interest in an activity, especially physical, be as supportive as possible (or try to seek out as much support as possible). Desire is one thing. Talent is another. Access is yet another, which is often overlooked and/or taken for granted.

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