Guess I wouldn't be a "valid" Houston running blog if I didn't post some comment about the Marathon's recent decision to not let anyone start early in order to finish by the time limit.
Let me start by saying I totally agree that NO registrant should be allowed on the course before the official start of the race (7 am). Furthermore, the Houston Marathon brought this upon themselves in my opinion by having "official" rules and "unofficial" rules. The Houston Marathon is the one who unofficially allowed a 5 am start for walkers. I don't recall whether or not it was acutally published on the website but everyone knows that there was a 5 am start and that if you started at 5 am, you were supposed to turn your bib around so the number doesn't show, you were supposed to not cross the mats, you were supposed to stay completely to the right, you were supposed to yield at water stations to runners, etc. I mean, heck, USA Fit made a business out of training walkers to walk this course in 7, 8 hours, all with the knowledge and sanction of the HM.
Most of what I've read on the blogs and on the boards, I agree with. And I think any reasonable person would agree with the decision to not allow registrants on the course before the race. And I think most agree that it was wrong for the HM to drop this policy change (yes, it may be unofficial policy but this is a policy change) on folks AFTER they have already registered and/or paid money for training programs, etc.
But here's where I disagree with some. Maybe disagree is too strong a word. Here's where I look at things a little differently than some. There are a lot of bloggers, commenters, and forumites out there who get their undies in a wad over whether or not someone who finishes 26.2 miles in 6:00:01 should get a medal or not or if they should get a finisher's shirt or not, or if they should even be allowed to cross under that sacred time clock and run through the chute and acutally enter the GRB. Are any of these things really what define a marathon? Do we really train for months and months, even more than a year, just for a pretty ribbon and our name on a web site? I finished my first marathon, the Houston Marathon in more than 6 and a half hours. I didn't care if I got a medal or not. I didn't care if I finished the race under the time clock or in the parking lot where my car was. I set a goal. I worked my ass off (literally) and I did what I set out to do. I did with my body what my mind thought was impossible. I made some great friends. I showed my kids (and myself) that with hard work, consistency, and determination you can do anything. I lost a bunch of weight. I got healthy in the process. I felt strong and great. Do we really want to make such a big issue about who gets a medal or not? Does it really matter? I say no.
So, I don't care if the HM stands out there till dark handing out medals to stragglers. They can just send it in the mail to every registrant for all I care. That's not why I would run a marathon. By the way, I did get a medal for my 6:48:30 finish and I did get a finisher's shirt thanks to the graciousness of the HM volunteers and staff who let me in as well as Matt, who just about beat the door down to get them to let me in. But when I recount my "glorious" day, I don't remember much about the medal and the shirt. I remember the sense of accomplishment. I remember resisting that irresistible desire to quit. I remember Rose leapfrogging all the way up Allen Parkway, running with me a little bit, then running back to her car only to meet me a little further up the course and then back to her car, all the way into downtown. I remember my friends and my family who were waiting for me at the finish. I remember SteveB meeting me a mile out on Rusk and running in with me...IN HIS SANDALS!!! I remember the training, the incredible encouragement I got from so many friends. I remember Steeeve, my coach, who encouraged me, challenged me, and never gave up on me. I remember it all and it's made a profound difference in how I view life and challenges. I'm grateful for the medal but really, that's not why I did it.
One more aside, Yes, it took me 6 hours and 48 minutes to finish but I did not know that going in. I honestly estimated that I could finish in just a little over 6 hours, maybe 6:03 to 6:10 at the latest. If I had known it was going to take me almost 7 hours, knowing there was a 6 hour time limit, I would not have attempted the race. I understood from the get go not to expect support and to not expect a medal or any swag and certainly not an official time posted on the website if I was going to be over 6 hours. I figured they would give us the extra chip time to get across but after that, I expected that the official 6 hour time limit would be strictly honored. So, I do have a problem with walkers/waddlers who KNOW for a fact that they can't finish in 6 hours. It's not safe. I know I'll never forget my first marathon but I'll tell you right now, I'll never finish one like that again. I'll know before I start that I'm going to finish in the time limit or I won't try.
That's my .02 cents.