Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Minority

"Almost always, the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

On May 26th 2002, I ran in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon.  Earlier that week, I began having a nagging pain in my lower back.  I figured that I was a bit stressed about the upcoming race and that my muscles were just "tightening up."  I guess I was wrong about that diagnosis.

At mile 15, I started getting some serious lower back pain with some weakness and tingling down my leg.  I knew that I would have to slow down and soon realized that for the first time ever, I would be crossing the finish line in over four hours. I began chatting with another veteran marathoner -- we were both experiencing some serious discomfort and were trying to push each other through the pain.  I confessed that I was unhappy to be joining the 'Over Four Hour Club.'  She smiled, and to this day, I remember her reply.  "You should be so proud to just cross the finish line -- being a marathoner puts you in a category that is not very populated...after all, how many people in the United States have actually completed even one marathon?  It is quite an accomplishment."

I repeated this woman's words of wisdom as I struggled through the next 11 miles. I limped through the finish line in 4:01:51, a new personal worst. That day, I discovered that my marathon accomplishments are pretty unique; instead of being disappointed with my time, I celebrated my victory.  Since then, I have had some slower and some faster times.

Marathon participation statistics are actually quite staggering.  In 2012, of the 315 million people living in the United States, 529,000 completed a marathon in the U.S.  I applaud the 0.17 percent of the American population that crossed the finish line that year!