I don’t run in your toilet, so don’t dump on my charity running.

“Wow way to go! It’s great that you came this far. What race did you use to qualify for Boston? I’m so glad you’re doing it the right way and actually qualified to get into this wonderful race. What was your qualifying time? You must be proud that you met the standards to get into Boston, a lot of people don’t. Way to go!” — Nick

It doesn’t matter how the road is traveled. As long as you reach the destination.                                                             

Every Thursday I sing karaoke. I go up to the mic and belt out some rendition of Aretha or Whitney. I think I do these songs pretty well. You see, I am a professional. I sing for a living. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon and I get paid to do what I do. Really, I SHOULD sing these songs well. It’s my job.

Now, Joe Schmo heads up to that same microphone to sing a little Jimmy Buffett. He doesn’t want to be the next American Idol. He just wants to go up, beer in hand, and try his luck at “Margaritaville”. He wants to have fun. Does that make him any less worthy of getting up there? Does that make his effort any less admirable? Though he may grace his notes with a little less pizzazz, does he not have every right to get up there and sing his tune? Karaoke is, after all, designed for everyone to try. Not everyone succeeds. Some do at higher levels than others, but the challenge still remains. And if the challenge is taken seriously, how can you not respect that?

Last week I wrote an entry entitled,  “Mass Mentoring. Why I Run. 16 Miles.” In it I describe how inspired I’ve been by the Mass Mentoring Partnership and how much I enjoy running to help children in need. The comment (above) was left by “Nick” in response to this blog. The sad part is, there are many people like Nick who believe charity runners are a disgrace to the marathon community because a lot of us don’t “qualify.” The truth is, there are MANY charity runners who are some of the most athletic people I have ever encountered. They choose to run for charity. They choose to do good.

True. I did not qualify for the Boston Marathon. It would be nice to achieve that some day, but I can’t begin to pretend that I am near that level of fitness right now. Nick’s blatant level of sarcasm should point that out for you, no problem. I got a bib number  because I was accepted onto a charity team. That, however, is entirely irrelevant. Equally irrelevant is the amount of money I have raised; but just for the record, I’ve raised over $5,500… and counting. I am proud to be an unqualified charity runner.

You, an elite runner, and I, a charity runner, are one in the same in the amount of effort we put forth in preparation for this difficult event. We are one in the same in distance traveled. My 5-hour marathon finish will in no way diminish the merit of your qualified run. The pitter patter of my humble running stride will be an insignificant sound to you when you are miles ahead. So take comfort.

The marathon, for you, is very much like karaoke for me. In the end, both are designed to include anyone with the determination and will to rise to the challenge. Some people do better than others, but everyone has the right to participate. The difference between you and me is that when Joe Schmo does Jimmy Buffett, I genuinely applaud his effort because I know it took a lot more guts for him to get up there than it did for me. But let’s be honest with ourselves; it takes an extraordinary person to finish a marathon, regardless of pace.

So the next time you think about belittling a charity runner as you stride like a gazelle to the finish, I hope you remember what I’ve written here. Because even if I do someday qualify for Boston, I would not change being a charity runner for anything in the entire world; because I run with a full heart and not a full ego.

(Besides, life would be boring if only filled with the elite.)

Now go sing some Journey karaoke and get over yourself.

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