The Mass Marathon: Sport and the Dynamics of Inclusion
The modern marathon, whose most impressive manifestations include fields of forty thousand runners in cities like Chicago, New York, and London, has become a festival of urban unity that attempts to suppress differences in age, ability, body type, and gender by redefining the sport as a gigantic happening rather than a competitive event. With its narrative of completion rather than victory, the marathon theoretically opens itself to nearly all comers and becomes a veritable mass expression of diversity united to achieve a common goal: the collective self-realization of its many participants. The aid stations that make such marathons possible often represent racial, ethnic, and sexually diverse communities within a given city. In theory, this practice sends an additional symbolic message of harmony, inclusiveness, and cooperation. But in this atmosphere of dynamic and celebratory diversity, class barriers and, despite the best wishes of marathon officials, racial barriers are very apparent. The question arises as to whether a sport that so closely reflects and reenacts the values of the urban elite can actually achieve the inclusiveness it allegedly seeks. Indeed, the marathon's new role in global tourism actually would seem to promote simultaneously the new internationalism and old class distinctions.
Keywords: Sport, Marathon, Class Status, Inclusion, Diversity, Politics, Identity, Organizations, Gender, Sexuality, Race
Dr. Andrew Suozzo
Professor, Modern Languages, DePaul University