Registration for the Chicago Marathon opened within the past few days, and more than 20,000 people have already registered for it. The marathon I am currently training for is Prague, which is May 13. Chicago, which is considered one if the top 5 marathons in the world, is October 7.
Naturally, if I am running the Prague marathon in May, I’d also want to run in the Chicago marathon in October (oh my God, who is this speaking???). Now, realistically, I realize that this is putting the cart before the horse — I am, after all, only 5 weeks into training for my very first marathon, and I am already wanting to register for my second? When I haven’t even successfully completed the first?
And I’d agree with myself there except that Chicago is my home turf AND one of the top marathons in the world, plus there is a perfect amount of time between the two for me to recover and begin training again. So, fine. I continue my training and finish Prague (insert Newt Gingrich: “In my second term as president, I’ll…” Blech. I got a bad taste in my mouth even humorously channelling him),
I continue my training and finish Prague and then I sign up for Chicago, right? As they say in Madison, easy peasy beersy cheesy.
Everyone who knows anything has been warning me that registration for Chicago usually fills within a month. With more than 20,000 registered within the first few days, and capping off at 45,000 participants, it’s already well on its way to capacity. So, I better hurry up, right? Like, what am I even doing online right now yammering away, and not on the Chicago Marathon registration page?
It costs $150 to register for the Chicago Marathon. Yup, one hundred and fifty clams that I’d have to cough up assoonasimmediatelypossiblehurryupitsgoingtoselloutgogogogodoit!
The Prague marathon will cost about $100 to participate in. There are the various other races I’m running between now and then: McCormick Place Indoor 5K, Shamrock Shuffle, Ravenswood Run, the Chitown Half Marathon… They all cost money. Plus, I need new running shoes. Money. Running, or at least racing (although I am only racing myself. Anyway…) Racing, it turns out, costs a lot of money. Just like so many other fitness activities.
Practically speaking, of course, anyone could work out, anyone could run. Isn’t that the great thing about running? All you need is a pair of track shoes and away you go! Who needs a stair climber when the world is full of actual stairs? No free weights? Try bottles of laundry detergent, phone books, bricks, etc. Sure, anyone can work out, if they really want to.
Except, if it was up to me to do those all those things on my own and entirely self-motivated, I would not do them. Now, admittedly, I am lazy and self-indulgent. There is not a single time that I am getting ready to go to boot camp where, if the opportunity presented itself, I wouldn’t choose, instead, to sleep in and then do some shopping and have a nice lunch out, maybe a glass of wine.
This is where organized (and expensive) fitness comes in. It motivates you. It makes you accountable. It offers immediate, obtainable short-term goals that, over time, help you reach your more lofty, long-term goals.
Okay, so a few years ago, Nikki and I joined our gym. It’s a pretty nice gym and kind of expensive. But I only went when I was motivated, and my motivation came and went in fits and starts (does this sound familiar to you?). Then, with Nikki’s encouragment, I registered for a 5K race. She’d already run a few. I hated running because I found it too bouncy.
The race gave me something to train for. It motivated me to go to the gym and to push my mileage up so that I could complete the challenge. That first race, I still ended up walking at least as much as I ran. But we signed up for another race, and in that one I did a little better. And so on. But all those races cost money and if I did not have them in my future as a reason to train, I would not have trained. Word.
Jump ahead a year or so. We belong to the same gym, but our fitness has kind-of plateaued. We aren’t really seeing results and that is discouraging. Plus, there’s work and deadlines and we’re tired and there are so many other things competing for our time. This is when our friend Marian encourages us to try her bootcamp class. In bootcamp, under the guidance of two kick-ass (figuratively in both ways, as in: they rock, and they kick our asses) trainers, and with the built in motivating dynamic of a group, we began pushing ourselves further and harder than we ever had before. In boot camp, we became part of a community of like-minded friends who motivated us, inspired us, and made us feel accountable.
The fact that we also paid for the bootcamp classes, in addition to our already expensive gym membership, also made us feel accountable. Paying for something is very motivating. Paying a lot for something is even more motivating.
Gym memberships, challenge goals, group fitness, personal trainers. All of these are important keys that help assure a stable and productive fitness lifestyle. And all of them cost a pretty significant amount of money. Add in the luxury of time, and a semi-flexible schedule… The ability to obtain and maintain fitness is weighted against poor or working class people. Not to get all political, but it’s true. Yes, it’s easy to glibly say that anyone can lace up their shoes and run out the door, but if you’ve been working all day in a demeaning job, if you have kids that need to be corralled and fed, if you are continually exhausted from the daily high-wire act
it takes simply to provide for your basic life necessities then, yes, sure, you can just lace up your shoes and run out the door (assuming you live in a neighborhood where it is safe to do so), but doing so is a heroic and exceptional act of personal will and determination.
Nikki and I are not poor, not like that, not by a long shot. But neither are we wealthy. Nikki is self-employed in a notoriously volatile industry and I am an adjunct (aka part-time) college instructor. Due to the slings and arrows of spring enrollment, I am only teaching one four-hour class this term. Which is great for my training, but pretty sad for my checkbook.
So, I have this idea. You know how the Catholic Church used to have that thing called “indulgences” where the aristocracy were able to purchase absolution for their sins? Remember that, and how it was one of the inciting causes of the Protestant Reformation? Well… From here on now I am granting indulgences for sloth to anyone with the money to pony up. You give me money, and I will perform fitness, so you don’t have to. YOU are absolved of guilt! Whatever you want to do — eat a whole pepperoni pizza, a pint of ice cream (or two!), drink a six-pack of beer… Everytime you drive to the Seven Eleven around the corner? I absolve you, as long as you pay up.
Okay, I am just kidding about that (kind of). After all, what authority do I have to absolve you? It’s not like I am the Catholic Church.
Joking aside, though, I do have something truly worthwhile for you to sink what I will assume is your dubiously procured money into. In February, I am participating in a treadmill marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society. My goal is to raise at least $300 to help research cures and treatments for cancer, and to help provide support services for people struggling with cancer. Many people in my life have been affected by cancer. I have lost my grandmother, two aunts, and a half-sister to cancer. Right now, I have friends who are struggling through cancer treatment and recovery. Anything you can donate will help, and any donation will grant you one indulgence. Donate $5? Have a donut! Donate $50? Drive somewhere within walking distance. Donate $100? Order a large pizza and lay on your couch all day, in your pajamas, watching a Wife Swap marathon. You can purchase your indulgences right here on the link to my fundraising page.
Oh, and if anyone wants to sponsor me for the Chicago Marathon, that would be great, too!