Left foot, right foot. Repeat.
Running is simple. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling something.
I also used to believe that running was unique in that you truly only ever get out as much as you're willing to put in. That you can't lie, cheat or fake your way through it.
Apparently, I was wrong.
Today, all you need (to put in) is a few extra dollars and cents.
What you get (out) for this relatively cheap (but ever increasing) investment is: a race bib (often with your name blazoned across it); chip timing; professional photographs; entire city streets, parks and squares 'closed' off; police patrols; water, gatorade and gel stations (chocolate milk even!); technical clothing and accessories (all made in third world countries); a goodie bag full of free product samples and race flyers; a post race buffet (sometimes all you can eat!), massages, physios, chiros, awards, prizes, and entertainment.
You are also fortunate enough to call yourself a 'participant' or a 'finisher' (ie a not so unique identity) and (most importantly) a major ego boost and sense of self-satisfaction.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Running races have ceased to be a sporting endeavor and have instead become a mass spectacle; a mega-event; a human parade! Running a race is more like an entry to a giant circus or fun-fair.
Racing (competing), unlike running, is extremely difficult. It requires preparation, training, dedication, special skills and knowledge. It requires putting in the time and energy; logging miles day after day; paying attention to diet and nutrition; and avoiding injury and illness. Standing on the starting line means being ready to give everything you've got and maybe a little more. It means having an understanding of pain, and fatigue; of glory and disappointment. It means being ready to compete against yourself and others and being accountable for the result.
ONCE AGAIN, I'm NOT asking people to stop running. I'm NOT telling anyone they are not good enough or fast enough to run. I'm NOT suggesting that a 4-hour 42.2k cannot be significant. And note: I never have! What I'm asking is for people to ask themselves why it is they choose to RACE and what they expect to gain from this.
You don't need to run a race to prove you're healthy or fit; to lose weight or burn calories; to raise money for charity or support a good cause; to enjoy the company of friends and family; to enjoy the great outdoors and get fresh air; to receive support and recognition; or to feel good about yourself. You can do this any time, anywhere!