Tomorrow the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon will be taking over my town, the sixteenth running of the annual event. San Diego was the birthplace of the Rock 'n' Roll racing series, and it attracts not only tens of thousands of us recreational athlete types, but some of the finest professional marathoners in the world. It is run smack in the middle of the city, which is also where I happen to live, and so for me has become something of a holiday. I can't go anywhere (without a big hassle), so I do my long run on Saturday, stock up on food and other essentials, and hunker down on "Rock 'n' Roll Sunday." I've never run it, but because I know most of the course so intimately well, it starts less than a mile from my house, and I always have friends running, it nonetheless feels very much like my "home race." I get up at dawn, pack my coffee and my brightly-colored signs, and run myself all over town in order to catch the runners at strategic points. That lone dork camped out in the median, waving at strangers, and ringing a cowbell. I never get tired of it.
Every year, in about mid-March, Competitor Group and the City of San Diego start warning residents and businesses about what is going to happen in early June. Those of us who are in the "impact zone" receive mailings and door hangers with maps of the course, road closures (with times of closures and re-openings provided), and alternate routes for getting in/out of every affected neighborhood that day. And yet, every year, there is a roar from angry residents around the city who are going to be inconvenienced. I'm reading with great interest the incendiary comments on the Facebook page of my city council representative, who has been posting on an almost-daily basis for two weeks now about the race, providing district residents with all of the information they could possibly need to mitigate the inconvenience. People are mad!
Don't get me wrong: I know that it sucks. I realize that for the majority who are not distance runners, it seems like a colossal waste of everyone's time and resources. I understand that many people work nights and weekends, and that their commutes and sleep are affected that night and morning. And let's face it: a Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, with live bands playing at every mile marker, is a particularly obnoxious affair. But all net positive fiscal impact on the city aside, I think people should just get over it on general principle.
Yes, those runners are causing a profound inconvenience that day for many, in their pursuit of this huge personal and physical challenge which may or may not make a lick of sense to you. But life is inconvenient. We're social creatures with complex systems and infrastructures that frequently get screwed up by we very people who depend upon them. On the whole, we make life easier for one another through our co-existence and interdependence, but if there were a way to map it (and man I wish there was, because how interesting would this be?), I'd venture to guess that every one of those people who is so pissed off at the hassle of Rock 'n' Roll Sunday necessarily inconveniences their fellow human beings in equal numbers on a regular basis. How many colds have I caught from someone who coughed or sneezed in a public place? How many have I spread myself? How many nights have I laid awake bothered by a noisy party next door? How many times have I woken up my neighbor by singing in the shower? Each of us is driving one of those cars in the traffic jam of life at which we find ourselves shaking a fist. Yes, those runners are a pain in the @$$. But you know what? So are you. So am I. So are we all.