After reading most of the messages on the board, the heart of the matter to me seems to be about the value and purpose of marathoning. As a marathon runner myself (as well as a professional sociologist who dabbles in sports), it seems to me that the value of the marathon is that it imposes discomfort, pain, and sometimes misery for 26.2 miles and forces people to reach deep within themselves to finish and/or finish well. In addition, the training is painful in and of itself, and I personally find more joy in knowing that I made it through the training than the race.
The finisher's medal and shirt become a symbol of the hard work and suffering that went into the race, not just the fact that the person covered 26.2 miles. When someone gets all of the rewards of the marathon without paying all of the costs (ie - took a shortcut or used an alternative finish), those who did cover the entire distance may feel cheated. Ideally, they would know in their heart of hearts that they accomplished something that "the cheaters" did not, but that is tough for a lot of people to do.
Running is essentially a selfish sport - and the charitable aspect of it muddies this fact. When people enter marathons not for the selfish reasons but for other, more altruistic ones, this creates two events inside of one - one for those who are primarily concerned with pushing themselves to their own limits and some who are more concerned with fundraising, etc. (and that certainly is not meant to imply that many runners who fundraise are not also concerned with pushing themselves to their own limits). This can't help but create problems for most of the people involved.
Good luck to all the race directors who have to sort this out!
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