It's been ten years since I ran the New York marathon. And a lot has changed since then.
Back in the old days, as I recall, a potential runner would stand in a line at Central Park to get a number and then if his number was picked, he was entered in the marathon. Runners who stood in line as opposed to entering by mail had a pretty darn good shot of getting in. But as running all those miles became such a popular idea (the aliens who land on earth some day will puzzle over this), the marathon organizers moved everything online and it became harder to get in.
Well, now I learn there is a sure-fire way to get in. Run for a charity. If you can raise $2500 for a good cause now, you're in like Flynn. According to the New York Times, at next week's marathon:
In the field of 43,000, 7,400 will be running for charity, an increasingly viable way to get into the coveted race for those who do not beat the long lottery odds, qualify by time or live near enough to participate in 10 required races in New York.
Running for charity has been a common way to enter other major marathons for decades — especially in London, where nearly 80 percent of the field of 36,550 ran for charities in 2010, raising $81 million. It is a fairly new phenomenon, however, in New York.
The charities seem like good causes. The one featured in the NYT piece is a group that supports aging and destitute Holocaust survivors.
I guess I have mixed feelings about this marathon development though. It does give an advantage to people who are rich or who have rich friends. And the marathon has always had this feeling of being a great equalizer. Someone who takes 6 hours to finish is competing in the same race as the elite runners. All the runners go through every borough, not just around the landmarks of Manhattan. You may find yourself running next to someone you didn't know and would never have met otherwise. New Yorkers are a very generous bunch and I'm sure this is a very good way to raise money, but I still hope the marathon organizers don't turn over 80 percent of the field to charities.