Gabriel Sherman Wants You To Get Out Of “His” Marathon

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

Jason Kottke said it better than I could I’m just passing this on to you:

Jason noticed that Gabriel Sherman wrote an article called, “How sluggish newbies ruined the marathon“. He is sick of slow runners in “his” races. With searing wit, Kottke has the best reply:

“Why should the almighty institution of The Marathonâ„¢ be more important than the people running in it? And why doesn’t he want more people to enjoy a sport that he loves? Should we implore Mr. Sherman to stop writing because he’s ruining journalism with his shallow, insubstantial articles? Hell no! Keep writing, Mr. Sherman…we’ll keep reading in the hopes that you’ll one day improve and recognize the importance of, every once in awhile, doing something for which you’re not ideally suited because you want to.”

It seems like so many people join sports (or religions or country clubs or whatever) in order to feel better than other people. If anyone can run a marathon, then the marathon isn’t special anymore, is it? WRONG! No matter who does it, if they finish a marathon, they have completed a great thing. For one shining moment, they were able to conquer the distance and any clamorings their body had to stop.

Bad form, Gabriel. Bad form.

Don’t let any elitist athlete tell you what you can and cannot do. If you have qualified and trained for the race, don’t let anyone stop you from running it. Sorry, Gabriel, you’re going to have to let a few more people into your “exclusive” club.


10 Responses to “Gabriel Sherman Wants You To Get Out Of “His” Marathon”

  1. Bruce Wilkison Says:

    Dear Mr. Sherman,

    I learned of this article when one of your many misguided (at best) quotes was featured at LetsRun.com. The website termed your article “controversial” – they were being diplomatic, to say the least. Your article is filled with so much silliness and sophistry that it almost defies logic. Perhaps it was satire?….

    Since I think you actually were somewhat serious in your opinions, I will elaborate on your various and sundry silly-isms:

    Today, the great majority of marathon runners set out simply to finish.

    The problem? Finishing a marathon IS an accomplishment, whatever you may think. Or perhaps you feel that YOU accomplished nothing in your “six marathons under my New Balance Trainers?”

    That sets the bar so low that everyone comes out a winner.

    In case you haven’t noticed, during your “six marathons under my New Balance Trainers,” there ARE actual winner declared for each marathon. Really!! Many of the “slowpokes” actual know who they are, too, and greatly admire them.

    In 1970, when 127 hearty souls lined up for the inaugural New York City Marathon, the marathon was the province of a few masochists dumb enough to try to run as far as most people commute by car.

    So “much smaller” is better? There are many marathons smaller than NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., so be of good cheer! There’s a marathon out there for you, perhaps before you take up Bridge.

    The success of books like Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running inspired mass “Just Do It” participation.

    Oh no – lots of people running?!? Getting off their butts and getting in shape?!? God forbid!!

    As the popularity of marathons increased, the speed of the race slowed to its current snail’s pace. In 1980, the average finish time for a male marathoner was 3:32, according to Running USA*. Today, it’s more than 4:20

    The problem? May I remind you that the fastest time for the marathon continues to get lower, even amongst all the circus-rock-concert-costumed- slowpoke-filled races.

    Funny also, that the Olympic Marathon, without “all that which Gabriel Sherman abhors” rarely results in a new world record?

    Aside from an elevated sense of self-worth, what do marathoners get from their efforts?

    I can’t say, personally. You see, at the age of 45, I’m training for my very first marathon, which, God willing, will take place on the morning of Sunday, January 14, 2007. At the Zeppelin-cover- band-filled (actually, there are more “Green Day” cover bands…) P.F. Chang’s Rock & Roll Marathon in Phoenix AZ.

    I’m training for a sub-4:00 hour time, and hopefully a bit faster, maybe 3:45. Is that too slow for you? If so, I’m sincerely sorry. You don’t have to come and watch this “marathon rookie” “crawling” towards the finish line. Ah yes, one question – weren’t you, at one time, a “marathon rookie?”

    Even though I have yet to complete my first marathon, I can list a myriad of improvements in my life because of running, AND because of marathon training. Let’s see…I’ve gone from 5’ 9” and 192 pounds two years ago to 148 pounds, and dropped my 5K time from 31:00 to just over 20:00. Again, if this is too slow for you, I apologize. The 20:00 5K sure doesn’t FEEL like “crawling,” even though it’s over 3 minutes slower than I could run when I was 17.

    My diet is far healthier than it has ever been, and two of my children are turning out to be decent, even GOOD junior high & high school runners, and are more aware of diet and fitness. I now coach the boys cross country team at my school, and THOSE guys are becoming more fit, and getting ready for basketball, soccer, baseball, etc. I’m able to influence them to eat better, and make fitness a lifelong goal.

    As for all the other “slowpokes,” many of them raise money for worthy charities, and plenty of other things. Surely you knew that?

    In the past decade, according to the Washington Post, at least four runners have died from drinking too much during a marathon.

    Now, Mr. Sherman, this one ranks as one of the more idiotic declarations in your article. Read the sentence again, slowly and repeatedly if necessary. In “the past decade”…..at least ”FOUR” runners have died… Now, to be sure, this is at least FOUR too many, but it’s a matter of education, not inherent danger. Now, think of how many non-marathoners, in the past decade, have died while… driving to work? At work? At home? Talking on the phone? Lifting a water bottle? Using the remote control to change channels? Getting dressed? Eating at McDonald’s? Playing Bridge? Getting struck by lightning? Although I haven’t researched the exact details, my guess is that FAR more people die during those activities than die during a marathon. Even out of a “430,000” person sample, I’m guessing that most of these would be higher than FOUR in a decade. Even if they aren’t, what have you proven?

    It would certainly be healthier for inexperienced joggers to run fewer miles at a faster pace.

    Hate to burst your bubble, but you can get plenty injured by running shorter and faster. Get that Bridge deck ready!

    Marathons might not be good for your health, but they are certainly good for business.

    As for the latter…the problem? And the former – I’m sure I will be very sore, and maybe somewhat injured, after my first marathon, but the benefits of the training far outway it. I’ll recover. Even elite runners who are built for regular marathons deal with injuries.

    American record-holder Deena Kastor, who won the 2005 Chicago Marathon in 2:21, is completely anonymous.

    Another magnificently uninformed statement. How many distance runners go professional for the “fame and fortune?” Some of them achieve it, yes, but…good grief! Do you actually READ what you write?!?

    Big-city marathons these days feel more like circuses than races, with runners of variable skill levels—some outfitted in wacky costumes—crawling toward the finish line.

    FIND A SMALLER ONE. They exist.

    The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, for one, has bands performing every mile to keep bored runners entertained. Maybe if people ran faster they wouldn’t need Zeppelin cover bands to keep boredom at bay FIND ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE BANDS. They exist. We feel good about creating the appearance of accomplishment, yet aren’t willing to sacrifice for true gains.

    Apparently you know of NO OTHER MARATHONERS except YOU. I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t had to sacrifice for true gains. I have already, and I haven’t run my first marathon!

    The New York Times recently reported that the wannabes who get turned away from the big-city races—New York got 90,000 applications—have resorted to buying spots on the black market. As the ranks of marathon runners swell, I have to ask: What’s the point?

    Slowpokes, newbies, AND free enterprise? Just what is this world coming to?!?

    But this growing army of giddy marathon rookies is so irksome that I’m about ready to retire my racing shoes and pick up bridge.

    But people have DIED while playing Bridge!

    Maybe it’s time we raise our standards to see who can run one.

    SIGH… Read Runner’s World. Read Running Times. Read the newspaper. Tens of thousands of people can RUN marathons, and aren’t even impeded by slowpokes like me. And they don’t whine about them, either.


    Bruce Wilkison, slowpoke and newbie marathon hopeful, and proud of it Phoenix, Arizona

  2. Christopher Chartrand Says:

    Thanks Bruce. Go Gettem’! I could not have said it better myself. I’m the same age as you, and only have been at it for a few years myself. My 5th marathon will be in BOSTON, but I started somplace. I hope you get your Sub 4! I don’t know for sure yet, but I think I might like smaller marathons better. I am still wondering how I am going to like running with 20,000 of my closest friends. You see I don’t travel to BIG Cities. It is very rare, but I have never been comfortable in that kind of environment. After Marathon 4 I discovered that being comfortable leads to confidence out there on the course. All the pieces seem to fit then. Stay Well, and Enjoy!


  3. iportion Says:

    Maybe it’s not the slow runners in front of him but the fact he’s not as fast as he thinks he is. Making excuises will not win races. A marathon just competing is amazing. I am proud I ran my first foot race. I came in last.

  4. Jimmy Freeman Says:

    Dear Mr. Sherman, I am one of the advocates of THE MASS NUMBER OF MARATHONERS… I coach for a charity group. As far as I’m concerned, with the epidemic of OBESITY and ADULT ONSET DIABETES, marathoning is the best thing to happen to the masses.

    I looked up some of Mr. Sherman’s times. I’m NOT impressed. Based on some of the numbers he seemingly “misses” from the 70’s (he was quoting numbers from before he was born, by the way), he would be one of the last people finishing. A 1:38-half marathon was a recent time. Today, above average, but not by much. He certainly isn’t winning any age group awards with that time. AND if you’re so interested in picking up an “elite” sport, dear Gabe, start running 100+ mile races. Unfortunately, they are FILLED with really kind, welcoming folk who would welcome anyone, even someone as narrow minded and as slow as you…

    The sad part of all of this is, a journalist thrives on the TALK he/she generates around their article. He might not even believe what he wrote, but he certainly succeeded in having US talk about it.

    Jimmy Freeman Marathon Coach & Southern CA Association USA Track & Field Long Distance Running Chair

  5. Tari Dudley Says:

    Letter sent to Gabriel_sherman@condenast.com regarding his article on sluggish newbies:

    Really? “Ruined the marathon?” Now, how in the world could that possibly happen? Because, I’m pretty sure that most of us “sluggish newbies” would be WAY BEHIND you!!

    And, frankly, without us supporting all these marathons, how many do you think would succeed financially?? How many new ones have popped up in the past few years??? It doesn’t have anything to do with the elite runners who get paid to show up at these runs – it’s the “newbies”!

    In 2004, I ran my first marathon at San Diego, after raising over $4000 for the American Stroke Association, and I didn’t finish last, although I had to run/walk it at the age of 58 – there were many more behind me. And, yes, it took me 6:45 to finish. Why do you think that finishing isn’t a goal??? I wanted to do better, but I was pretty happy to finish, and everyone I know was happy for me. But, if I was in your way at any time, then you’re not as good as you think!

    In 2006, I walk/ran the half marathon in Phoenix, again collecting over $4000 for the American Stroke Association. I am just one of many “sluggish newbies” who have helped many charities, provided work for many of the shoe and clothing manufacturers, along with the stores that sell the items, as well as the runs themselves.

    What is the matter with you??? One of the reasons I love “running” is because no matter how fast or slow I am going ALL others out running speak to me and smile – it doesn’t seem to bother them that I’m not going as fast as they are at all – so, why should it bother you??

    By the way, were you BORN running??? Or, were you a “sluggish newbie” at one time blocking someone else’s path??? My bet is that you were.

    And, as far as the problem of hyponatremia and “newbies”, I believe it was a seasoned runner who died and brought it to everyone’s attention. That has NOTHING to do with being new to the sport. We all train with coaches, and if not, then we train with a lot of knowledge.

    Personally, I’ve been reading Runner’s World from cover to cover, as well as other books on running (published, I might add, for new people to the sport), since 2003 when I started this journey. Although, my guess is, that isn’t good enough for you. And, yes, most all of us know who Deena Kastor is – we’re runners!!

    Shame on YOU! I am very proud of all the people I have been associated during the past several years, many of whom have not only collected a lot of money for the ASA (and other organizations), but who have gotten their own health issues under control, and will now live much better lives for that!

    I have a lot more to say, as your article wasn’t a short statement, but went on and on; however, I’m sure you probably won’t read this. Again, SHAME ON YOU!!!

    Tari Dudley

  6. Tari Dudley Says:

    Oh, yeah, a large group of not-so-sluggish “newbies” and myself are now in training for the Dallas White Rock Half and Full Marathon! And, doing quite well!


  7. Hunter H. Cashdollar Says:

    There does seem to be a big contingent of “newbies” running these things the last few years. I’ve got three friends in their late 30’s who just ran one in the last year.

  8. Hunter H. Cashdollar Says:

    There does seem to be a big contingent of “newbies” running these things the last few years. I’ve got three friends in their late 30’s who just ran one in the last year.

    Hunter H. Cashdollar

  9. Gary Says:

    A fairly easy way to “appear” to be an expert on a subject is to be critical of it. It happens in many areas. Mr. Sherman seems to have stumbled onto this technique. If I ever see another article with his name attached to it, I will read no further.

  10. White Lightening, finisher, SF marathon Says:

    when i run in a race i ALWAYS wear a costume….one to mock and poke fun of douches like Sherman. it usually involves some kind of gold spandex, seqins, and lycra. it’s showy and flashy. i make my way while pointing a #1 in the air yelling phrases like, “this ain’t no joke! this is the real deal!” i’ve wondered if i was being too mean by harshly judging a “type” i perceived among the ranks of the running “community.” i wasn’t. i was dead on.

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