Back in October there was a lot of talk about a New York Times article about “plodders.” Plodders have a place, but is it in a Marathon. It hurt me; Juliet Macur said “Many of those slower runners, claiming that late is better than never, receive a finisher’s medal just like every other participant. Having traversed the same route as the fleeter-footed runners — perhaps in twice the amount of time — they get to call themselves marathoners.” Next to that line was the photo of the NYC Marathon finish line, with the clock showing 4:32:05.
I was enraged. How dare she define my accomplishment? I was comment # 75, “This year I am gonna run a little slower so I can save a little energy to give a beat down to anybody who calls me a ’plodder’.” (Wow, 37 readers recommended my comment.) But now I got over it. But my goal for next year’s race is 4:32:04.
But it got me thinking; who is anyone to define anybody’s accomplishment? I remembered a conversation I had with my teammate Julio Zavala. I asked him about his experience as an Achilles Guide because one day I might not be able to run the NYC Marathon, but I sure do want to be on that course. I asked him how they matched him with his athlete. He said they made a very good match; they needed the skills and experience he had as a health worker because he had to physically assist the athlete in the restroom. He was also a good match because he is a big strong guy. He had to push a cart carrying a spare battery. I said what battery? He said the wheelchair had room for a spare battery but for 26.2 miles the chair needed three fully charged batteries. I said, “Wait a minute, you mean this guy ran a marathon in aneclectic powered wheelchair? What is the point; this is an athletic competition, not a NASCAR event. This guy was driving.”
Julio corrected me. He said “The effort that this man needed to control the joystick of his wheelchair for 26.2 miles was equal to or greater than the effort anyone needed to run it.” After getting an 8am start, it was getting dark by the time he got to
Central Park and he had lost the ability to control even his fingertips on the joystick. The man also did not speak a word of English but Julio knew that getting to the finish line was a great accomplishment for this man; nobody deserved a finisher’s medal more than he did.
That is why whenever anyone asks me how I did in a marathon I always say “I won!” So should the man Julio guided.