Laeding article: Keep on running

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The Independent Online

The thought of running a marathon is daunting enough for most of us. But a marathon every day for a whole year? Beyond comprehension.

Yet that is what makes it strangely deflating to hear Stefaan Engels, the Belgian who has just completed the feat, describe it as no big deal: "I don't regard my marathon year as torture. It's more like a regular job ... I am running just as Joe Average goes to work on Monday morning, whether or not he feels like it."

This might be honest, but it rather misses the point. Marathons are supposed to be tough, the very opposite of "a regular job". The original marathon, run by Pheidippides, was so exhausting that the Athenian herald collapsed dead at the end of it. That's what endurance running is supposed to be all about.

Where's the glory if these runs can be compared to the Monday morning of "Joe Average"? We fear Mr Engels has done runners everywhere a disservice with these blasé remarks. He should have told us that each mile was agony, but that he managed to keep going only through enormous reserves of willpower. Every marathon must require a marathon effort. Otherwise, what's the point?