That is precisely the case at The Flora London Marathon on Sunday where world-beaters line up, ahead of, if not side by side with, club runners and those doing their bit to raise money for charity - the latter have raised an estimated pounds 80m over the years, according to the official Website.
Half a million make it to the course to watch. Around six million tune in on TV at home. To say nothing of the 30,000 who pull on their running shoes and pound the streets.
The official Website's home page features a slide show of runners and animated logos. Those with browsers set up for audio will be mildly disconcerted when suddenly a heart-beat soundtrack erupts through their speakers.
The site's media pages have details of breaking news stories leading up to the event, such as who has dropped out of or been drafted into the elite race in search of $55,000 prize money. The media pages are also where last year's results (men and women's top 100) and quotes from athletes are archived.
The history section fills in the background to an event that has been running only since 1981. The coaches' corner has snippets of training information, and advice on diet, injury and medical matters.
Worryingly, in the entrant section under runner information there is only a sign saying information will be online in March. Ten days before the start that sign was still there.
Although the site is generally informative, it cannot quite compete with the Boston Marathon's site. The world's oldest marathon takes place the day after London this year. Runners have microchips embedded in their shoes that identify them and are used for timing. Web users can follow the progress of named runners and get updated stats, spilt times and so forth, as the race unwinds.
Both the London and Boston marathons feature heavily as discussion items in the rec.running newsgroup that most ISP servers carry. Chat ranges from the relative merits of different makes of running shoes and clothes through to detailed progress reports from runners who have suffered injuries in training but who still hope to be fit for the starting line. All good stuff if you want to get into the mindset of marathon runners.
Runnersworld has a similar chat facility within its UK site, but it's not so well used. However, there are some detailed downloadable training schedules in Excel format for those interested in next year's race.
This site also has everything you need to know about technical terms including simple tests (and definitions) of pronation and the implications for buying appropriate running shoes.