Who in the hell is Michael Tarm to decide who looks "...like a starting line is, well, the last place they should be"? In this article on the growing number of participants in big-city marathons, Tarm points out that nowadays you will see people at marathons who are old, fat, wearing chicken suits, and/or wearing g-strings. So far, this all sounds fine to me. But a large number of people collapsed from heat stroke and exhaustion at last weekend's Chicago Marathon (possibly due to the water running out at some of the water stations along the course, though the organizers are denying that this happened), and in response to this, some unnamed "marathon purists" to say that races are "too all-inclusive" and are being overrun by "novices" who "crowd courses for more serious runners".
OK. Marathons may be getting bigger, but if race organizers seriously wanted to cut down on the number of entrants (which evidently they don't, since they like collecting entry fees and the host cities like collecting the revenues from all the people who come to the marathons from out of town), there are plenty of ways to do this. For example, they could require entrants to achieve a certain qualifying time in another marathon, like they do in Boston. Or for those races that don't wish to be exclusive to fast runners, they could just put smaller caps on the total number of entries and register people on a first-come, first-served basis. Or for races that really don't want the "novices", they could require participants to qualify by completing a shorter distance race, e.g., a half marathon, before entering. Or, hell, they could just allow entries by invitation only if they wanted a purely elite field. But none of these possibilities is explored in the article. The only identifier that is suggested for weeding out the "not-so-serious" runners is appearance. If you are old or fat or not wearing socially acceptable attire, it is implied that you are not serious enough. That is wrong and crappy. There are plenty of "serious" participants in events like this who don't necessarily "look" like elite athletes. Just to pick a totally random example, there are people weighing 200 pounds and even more who successfully run marathons. And hell, this woman is a fucking triathlete! So really, I think your seriousness as an athlete has a lot more to do with your attitude than your looks. And I hope that things like this crappy article don't contribute to prejudice against participants who lack the runner's traditional "look". Especially since, as I've said elsewhere, I personally have always found the running communities I've been a part of to be very accepting of different body types.