Running a marathon was once the pinnacle of athletic acheivement. For most, it still is – but we’ve noticed a trend of people making marathons and other extreme sporting events look like a walk in the park.
In 2010 Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run heralded a new interest in ultra-marathon running. Telling the tale of the mysterious Mexican Indian Tarahumara tribe, who live in the depths of the Copper Canyons and are believed to be the best distance runners in the world, it kick-started a trend in barefoot running.
Today we are seeing not only professional athletes taking on mammoth races across perilous mountain ranges and desolate deserts, but everyday city-dwellers swapping theirs suits for trainers and lycra.
There are events such as Tough Mudder – a hard core, 12 mile obstacle courses designed by the Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. Or Mind Over Madness, where 14,000 people joined a yoga class in the middle of New York’s busiest intersection Time Square in 32 degree heat to celebrate the summer solstice.
Probably the maddest thing we’ve heard about recently is Run for Love 1000. Three Londoners are setting off in April to run 39 marathons in 30 days across eastern Europe – running by day and sleeping rough by night. The aim is to raise money for Love 146 a charity who’s mission is to end child trafficking and exploitation.
The question is, why are we starting push our bodies to the edge of reason? Perhaps, as the recession staggers on, we’ve realised that our lives need more meaning? Maybe we feel that life is more important than our jobs, and we should further ourselves and mark personal achievements in other ways? Or perhaps we’ve realised that last few years have been very tough for some, and those of us who can still go on nice holidays and pop down to the local food market for seasonal veg feel a sort of guilt? As there are millions of people who need support, the idea of pushing our bodies to the limit to raise money and awareness seems like a reasonable trade off.