A few days ago the internet was on fire following the publication of an interview with Fabián Roncero, one of the pillars of athletics in Spain. Remember that legendary marathon when cramp forced him to stop and subsequently lose his chance of setting a world record? (He still managed to set a Spanish record). Up to that point, Spanish athletics could only dream about a achieving a world record in the marathon. In his interview Fabián spoke about how popular running has become, the best way to prepare for a marathon and controversially he put into question the “modus operandi” of many popular athletes.

In one of his most controversial claims in this interview, Roncero stated he was totally against people who, without adequate training, decide to participate in long distance races just for the sake of making it to the end of the race – so-called “finishers”. He went on to say that there is no merit in merely finishing a race. Indeed, as he said, his own grandmother could be a “finisher” if she were allowed to finish the race in eighteen hours!

In this regard I have to say that I agree with Fabian on one point: you should never take up a sporting challenge without proper physical preparation, whether it is to finish with a fantastic time or simply to make it across the finish line, regardless of how long it takes. But, in my opinion, the international former athlete is wrong when he makes the point that even his grandmother could be a “finisher” if she is allowed to take eighteen hours to complete the marathon. In many cases, the time is the least important aspect about the race. There are people who with proper trainig know that their limit will be to finish the race in an average or below average time. There are others whose only objective is to finish the course with no thought to the time. And that is absolutely fine. As regards Roncero´s arguement, I wonder what he would think of the following situation. Imagine a physically strong athlete who decides to run the marathon WITHOUT prior training. Imagine he finishes the race in 2 hours 20 minutes. Is he to be considered a worthy “finisher”? Shouldn´t he also be criticised for running without adequate training? Taking eighteen hours , or any other time shoudn´t be taken into account when oit comes to amateur athletics,

On the other hand, it is also true that this obsession in amateur athletics with being a “finisher” could be quite risky. A fad where the only objective is to finish a race no matter what, leads to many people participating in events without being properly prepared, since their only aim is to make it to the end of the race. However, as I mentioned before, I am not against them participating because they aren´t fit enough to achieve a noteworthy time or because the amateur runner´s attempt is less deserving of merit. Not at all. No. My reservation is about the physical risk which completing a marathon entails when the participant hasn´t done prior training. It is never worth it to risk one´s physical well-being for the sake of being a “finisher”.

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