I'm training for my first marathon. It's been very hard work to get to the point where I feel ready to attempt this. I was overweight and sedentary for a long time; over the past 5 years I have progressed gradually by giving myself a series of challenges. I don't participate in any athletic event until I am pretty sure I can do what's required.
I know I won't be very fast in the upcoming marathon -- I'm aiming for 4:30:00, but who knows? I may fall apart in the last few miles, and find that I can't finish the race, or can't finish it within the required time. What will I do then?
I will admit that I have failed in my first marathon attempt, and call it a day! I won't be happy about it, but neither will I try to solve the problem by cheating. Doing that would be an insult to everyone who really did finish -- and to everyone who didn't finish, but didn't cheat. Anyway, it wouldn't boost my self-esteem to take home a keepsake medal that would forever remind me of the day I tried to finish a marathon, couldn't finish it, and decided to pretend I finished it.
I think people need to be clear in their minds about WHY they are signing up for endurance sports such as marathons and hundred-mile bike rides. Yes, these events are very difficult -- that's the point. They are designed to be so challenging that simply completing the entire course, within the allowed time, is a respectable achievement. If you want to win the respect that is owed to those who achieve this, without actually achieving it, you are too confused about the whole enterprise to be involved. (That you are also involved in charity work is irrelevant; that's no excuse for fraud.)
Of course, I think I really will succeed in my marathon attempt. But if I see a lot of my fellow "finishers" piling out of vans just before the end, my achievement will be cheapened, and I might not want to participate in a marathon again.
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