Thought for the Day

Friday, May 11, 2007

Unplug Your Ears

After the Tucson Marathon last year, some friends and I were talking about how little the runners were talking to each other out on the course. We had all had those experiences in previous marathons where we made friends while covering the miles. But it seemed like people in marathons were talking to each other less and less.

We speculated on why that was, and the topic turned to headphones and earbuds.

In April I had the pleasure of running my first Boston Marathon, and was amazed by the crowds braving a Nor'easter to cheer, with incredible enthusiasm and energy, us marathoners.

Recently I ran a leg in the Big Sur Marathon Relay. I've run the full marathon at Big Sur twice, and the Relay four times. It's one of my favorite events.

It is a beautiful marathon, in every sense of the word. The visual beauty of the course can hardly be conveyed by pictures on the website. You can never get the full effect of the view from Hurricane Point until you've run there via the first twelve miles of the race. Even harder to understand, for those who haven't experienced it, is the auditory beauty of the Big Sur Marathon.

The sounds of the start are much like most marathons, the murmur and buzz of thousands of runners barely containing their excitement, the hushing of the crowd as the National Anthem comes over the PA system, the starter's voice, and the gun.

But much of the sound at Big Sur is unique. This marathon was the first to be called "the Musical Marathon" and undoubtedly inspired the others which are being created around the country.

The music at Big Sur is not just something to distract the runners, it is a part of the course.

A string quartet bids them to relax, and soothes their pent up energy as they cruise the first few downhill miles through the forest.

Taiko drummers pound out a beat to drive them on up the long hill at Hurricane Point. The grand piano congratulates them as they come down from the highest point on the course and echoes the beauty of the ocean cliffs and Bixby Bridge.

Marching bands encourage and carry them through some of the seemingly infinite rolling hills. A Dixieland jazz band celebrates with them as they approach the finish.

Then the finish, I suppose is once again like so many other marathons, people cheering their lungs out for the runners, names and home towns being called out as runners finish.
Runners may not be able to hear a musical group every step of the way, of course. There are quiet spots along the way where a runner can hear nothing but breathing, footsteps, and the Pacific surf.

And perhaps the occasional chatter of some fellow runners.

I'm not trying to criticize. Others have to make up their own minds how they want to experience life.

I would miss so much if I ran marathons with plugs in my ears.

I would also feel like I was being a little disrespectful to all of the cheering spectators, the musicians, the volunteers, to the Pacific Ocean, to shut it all out.
I would no more want to run with my ears closed than with my eyes closed.

Originally posted to my blog on

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