Always ask yourself if you are right in your opinion!
My superficial opinion
Like every year, I am back in Boston at the time of the marathon. The elite men have just crossed the finish line, followed briefly by the women. This time I watched it on TV from my hotel room, last year I was there at the finish line. I’m glad I did, because the weather is not exactly sparkling and my enthusiasm for this kind of event has cooled down considerably.
In the last 15 years I have photographed so many marathon events that my enthusiasm is exhausted. There was something appealing about the press conferences, the atmosphere before and after the races, the colleagues and the food in the press centres. People knew each other, liked each other to a certain extent, talked to each other, talked to the top athletes and felt important. Today I ask myself how I actually came to be there. I was and am not an enthusiastic marathon runner, and I also find all this fuss about people who use it to enhance and define themselves absolutely ridiculous. Running a marathon is nothing special, most people can do it. I have great respect for anyone who decides to do it, but all this fuss and hysterical posturing really gets on my nerves. Some people, too many for my taste, act as if they have done something incredible and unique, when in fact it is something quite normal. Millions have done it and millions will continue to do it. Why do so many of us always need these crutches in public to validate ourselves, to prove to ourselves and others that we are valuable? I understand it when someone humbly decides to run one or more marathons and does it. I also understand it if someone makes money out of it, I even understand the public marketing. But when it comes to the thousands and thousands of runners who seek meaning in marathons, I have no understanding at all; they really get on my nerves. So I ask again how I came to work as a marathon photographer. It was the love for my wife. She was a modest enthusiastic marathon runner who never bragged or defined herself by times and marathons run: On the contrary, she shared everything quietly and secretly with me. I often accompanied her, cheered her on, helped her achieve her own goals and comforted her when things didn’t work out. After that, we worked together as journalists, she reported, I provided the photos. It was a wonderful and interesting time that I wouldn’t want to miss. But that time is over; now there are other tasks in both our lives.
Only yesterday I had a conversation with an elderly man who is an avid runner and has dedicated his life to running. He knows the whole history of the marathon, has written books about it and is considered an expert in the field. He was sympathetic to my attitude. I found his statement about today’s marathons insightful and true. Nowadays, so many people run marathons to show off and gain status, whereas we used to run for the love of running. We were a small community that shared that passion. Today, the marathon has become a mass event where a narcissistic majority is all about business.
However, some meaningful institutions depend on these events to do some good. That is why I am not an opponent but a supporter of big marathon events. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in Boston right now. Nevertheless, I find it extremely difficult to congratulate someone on their achievement with respect and enthusiasm. There are still people who proudly present the six-star finisher’s medal. They have completed all the so-called major marathons. Great, so what? It costs a lot of money to travel around the world and have run in Berlin, Tokyo, New York, Boston, London and Chicago. There are now over 20 thousand who have done it. If someone can and needs to, that’s fine; but please don’t brag about it.
It could well be argued that this development, along with the majority of marathon runners, makes me aggressive. I’m happy to reveal here what rather delights me. When someone joyfully gets together with other people to run together because it’s nice to run together. Because they do something together, exchange ideas or even because they motivate each other and make an effort. This world is becoming more and more egocentric. Egocentrism is supposed to help us get over the doctrine of futility. It is a self-deception meant to hide the lack of responsibility towards oneself. The math doesn’t add up, even if you take a life lie for the truth. You know the saying, “Anyone can achieve anything if only they really want to”. That is the surest way to fail in life. Today I saw thousands of failures running the marathon again. I should keep it to myself, because the truth is and remains hidden most of the time. Besides, I will make many enemies again if I speak it.
Tomorrow I will return home. I’m looking forward to my bike, my surroundings and everyday life. There is a lot of work waiting for me – work of persuasion. Seek happiness in truth and stay humble. You are good enough if you make an effort to do things that are important to you. You don’t need to brag about something because others are doing it. I know, an almost impossible task of persuasion, but I’m not giving up: running a marathon is something pretty much anyone can do.
My reflected opinion /But perhaps valuable to many others!
People congratulate each other, they beam with pride and joy. They wear their medals around their necks. Many are limping or walking visibly battered, scarred by their exertions. Sometimes they walk side by side with their friends or families who have cheered them on and supported them. Their perspective is certainly different from mine. For them, a dream has probably come true, they have achieved something great. Alone, all by themselves, they probably wouldn’t have done it. What is right, what is wrong; what is a lie, what is truth. Who gives who the right to judge, one way or the other?
I question my thoughts and realise that I should not justify my lack of interest by a blanket condemnation. Maybe some of what I wrote is even true, but is it relevant to other people? I don’t think so. I think I should just leave it at that for me the whole world around the marathon has become uninteresting because I am now pursuing other priorities. That should be enough. A beautiful thought, a liberating thought. We live in a divided world where we increasingly turn away from each other. We accuse each other, feel we are in the right to be the good guys. In the process, we condemn other people for being evil. I give myself a break and decide to edit my criticism and the reasons for it. Let it be good, I admonish myself, let people have their marathon and stop criticising them. They have earned their praise.