Testing the limitation of the human body by running a 42.195km marathon started in 490 B.C to commemorate a soldier, who had run this same distance to his home to spread the news of victory over Persia by Greece. Since the first modern Olympic Games, the marathon has been an official event, and from 1984, women also started to officially participate in the marathon event at the Olympics. In 2014, the marathon started a new chapter in its history. People have added smaller events to the larger run. People now not only run, but also shoot others with water pistols, stop to enjoy a music festival or dress up as a zombie. Then, what is it that motivates runners today?
New Joy from Running
The marathon has become unique, unusual, and flamboyant. One of the most noticeable changes to the marathon is definitely its diversification. 2014, alone, saw dozens of new marathons like Nike’s We Run and New Balance’s Color Run. The difference between these races and traditional ones is the marathon theme. Rather than merely running and recording times, people have started to add flare to the races. For instance, last November, the unique run, Zombie Run, which celebrated Halloween was held with the concept of running away from zombies. One of the participant said, “I would have absolutely regretted not registering, I didn’t take part in it. I felt the atmosphere of Halloween, and by enjoying the corresponding commemorative performance, I ran pleasurably.”
Furthermore, as marathons are diversifying, the number of runners is increasing and participants are coming from all walks of life. As the trend is for people of all ages to take part, shortened marathons like the 10k or 5k have risen in popularity. In 2008, almost twenty thousand people ran in a 10k race, but this year a hundred thousand people participated, which is more than a five-fold increase in 6 years.1 So to say, there are more opportunities for people to enjoy optimized running regardless of age or physical strength. In this way, in addition to professional runners and members of marathon clubs, there are new faces like women university students.
What Tightens their Shoelaces?
What motivates people to run? To begin with, a marathon is a marketing strategy aimed at young people. In the past, supporters of marathons were official foundations such as the National Health Run Association; however, nowadays the newer eye-catching marathons are supported by apparel companies like Nike, Reebok and New Balance. One business representative said, “Sales of running shoes and sportswear typically increase before and after a marathon. Thus, by connecting new products with a particular marathon through marathon participation ticket sales, sakes of related commodities increase.”2 In this way, rather than traditional ways of promoting, companies are changing their advertising ways, which also enhance their corporate images by making them fresh or vigorous.
On the other hand, the main cause of the phenomenon is the increased interest in living a healthy lifestyle. Korean society continuously emphasizes self-improvement and self-management. They even consider health an asset and sometimes a competitive advantage. Jeong Yoonjae, Department of TESL ’13 also added, “I spent most of my time sitting indoors, which led to my lack of exercise. However, I worry about my lifestyle choice since society wants people to not only show competency in their field, but also physically well-suited. Therefore, I am looking at marathons as a way of improving my health and self-development.” Just like Jeong, despite the expensive participation fees, people are looking to join marathons for the benefits they bring.
Sharing the Value of Challenge and Passion
The significance of the running together can be found in the phenomenon that people can enjoy something together as well as other smaller events during the race. It is easy to spend one’s leisure time meaninglessly, but a marathon allows one to get two hares at once: physical and mental health. Marathons are known for enhancing one’s cardiovascular endurance development andlosing weight. Moreover, it offers people an opportunity to unite in a society overflowing with individualism. Surely, marathons are not team sports but an individual sport. Nevertheless, at the same time, a marathon is no longer a solitary competition. The value of a marathon is in the encouragement people give each other. Perhaps, that is why life is often compared to a marathon. Instead of determining ranking, people spur on others by striving for the same goal. Emil Zatpek, Czech runner who won four Olympic gold medals said, “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run marathon.” In this way, by running, people can experience a different life instead of battling a war alone.
1 Han Jiyeon, “Marathons are Spreading like Fads, Sports Companies Smile,” Aju-news, September 24, 2014
2 See Footnote 1