Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English. I'm Phoebe
And I'm Steve Ember. Today, we report about marathon races and
the popularity of running in the United States.
Forty-two kilometers is a long way to run without stopping. But
twenty-thousand competitors with a lot of energy will try to do that
next Monday, April nineteenth. These people will take part in the
one-hundred-eighth Boston Marathon in Massachusetts. The race is the
oldest marathon in the world held each year.
Men and women over age eighteen run in the marathon. Some
competitors are much older than eighteen. Some runners are seventy
and older. But most of the runners are younger than forty.
Winners of past Boston Marathons
will race again this year. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya is
defending his first-place finish last year. Catherine Ndereba of
Kenya has won the Boston race two times. They are among many serious
competitors in the two-thousand-four marathon. Winners will share
five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand dollars in prize money given by
companies and organizations.
Runners in the Boston Marathon have demonstrated that they are
good at the sport. They completed earlier races called qualifying
races. They have to run those races within a set time.
Other people join the Boston Marathon just for fun. These people
have not officially joined the race. They just start running with
the crowds. They are called "bandits." Many of them probably will
finish hours after the serious runners. But these unofficial racers
are just as happy. They sometimes kiss the ground after crossing the
The runners will begin this year's Boston Marathon at mid day
next Monday in the town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts. They will then
pass through the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley,
Newton and Brookline. They will run up and down hills. They will
complete the race in the center of Boston.
People will provide liquids for the runners at twenty-four places
along the way. If anyone gets hurt or sick, medical workers at
twenty-six American Red Cross stations can provide medical help. As
usual, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to watch the
marathon. Many will carry signs that say things like, "We are proud
of you, Mommy."
Before the marathon begins, a computer chip device is attached to
each runner's shoe. It electronically records how long the runner
takes to complete the race. Timing begins when a runner passes
another device placed across the road at the starting line. The
computer chip records each runner's time as he or she passes several
areas along the race. And it records the runner's final time when
crossing the finish line.
Last year, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot ran his winning race in two
hours, ten minutes and eleven seconds. The women's winner, Svetlana
Zakharova, finished in two hours, twenty-five minutes and twenty
People who cannot walk also compete in the Boston Marathon.
Competitors in wheelchairs begin the race earlier than others. The
Boston Marathon became the first major marathon to include users of
wheelchairs in nineteen-seventy-five.
Last year, South African competitor Ernst VanDyk won the
wheelchair race. He finished in one hour, twenty-eight minutes and
thirty-two seconds. Mister VanDyk also won the wheelchair race in
two-thousand-one and two-thousand-two.
Christina Ripp of the United States won the women's wheelchair
event last year. She finished the race in one hour, fifty-four
minutes and forty-seven seconds.
The first Boston Marathon was held in eighteen-ninety-seven.
Fifteen men competed. Ten finished the race. Since then, the
marathon has been held every year as part of a holiday in
Massachusetts called Patriot's Day. The holiday honors the beginning
of the American War of Independence in the seventeen-seventies.
The word "marathon" comes from an area along the coast of Greece.
An important battle took place in Marathon about
two-thousand-five-hundred years ago. An army from Persia had invaded
Greece. Greece's army defeated the invading army at Marathon. An
Athenian general sent a Greek runner to Athens to tell the news of
the victory. Marathon was about forty kilometers from Athens. The
man ran to Athens at top speed. He announced his message. Then he
fell to the ground, dead. A men's marathon of about forty kilometers
was included in the first modern Olympic games in
eighteen-ninety-six. The distance of the marathon was increased to
forty-two and two-tenths kilometers at the nineteen-oh-eight
Olympics in London. The marathon continues to be a popular Olympic
Many American cities in addition
to Boston hold marathons. For example, the United States Marine
Corps Marathon will take place October thirty-first in Washington,
D. C. and the state of Virginia.
The city of Chicago, Illinois also will hold its
two-thousand-four marathon in October. The running area in Chicago
is almost completely flat. This has permitted runners to set some of
the world's fastest times there. The Chicago race offers some of the
largest prizes among American marathons. It will give
six-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars in prize money.
New York City will hold its marathon in November. This race is so
large that competitors must take part in a game of chance to win the
right to enter. As many as thirty-thousand people run in New York
Not all marathons are so successful. More than six-thousand
people ran in the first Washington D.C. Marathon in March,
two-thousand-two. Some said they enjoyed the race more than any
other. The runners passed by some of the city's most famous
monuments, including the United States Capitol. But last year the
race was cancelled. The organizers blamed security concerns because
the war in Iraq was soon to start. The marathon was cancelled again
this year. However, that did not stop hundreds of people from
racing. They ran the "unofficial" marathon on the day the official
race was to have taken place.
Thirty years ago, far fewer people ran in the United States.
Today, millions run. Many more women now take part in the sport.
Many children in public and private schools run as part of their
physical education programs.
Running has gained popularity for several reasons. You can do it
anywhere, any time. You do not need other people. And you do not
need much equipment. However, experts say you should wear a good
pair of running shoes to protect your feet. The manufacture of
running shoes has become a huge industry.
People run for different reasons. Most say running makes them
feel better physically. It prevents them from gaining weight. It
provides needed exercise to help prevent some diseases. Many people
also say running makes them feel better mentally. It makes them feel
happier. Some say they forget their worries when they run.
Many people also run to help others. For example, Ed Burt of
Hopedale, Massachusetts ran in the Boston Marathon last year to help
the American Liver Foundation. This deeply pleased his father, who
was suffering from liver disease. This year, Ed Burt already has
raised more than two-thousand dollars in the Liver Foundation's Run
for Research campaign. He will take part in the marathon this year
in memory of his father.
Sports experts urge people to prepare themselves before trying to
run in long races. They say special exercises and repeated runs are
needed to build strength.
Doctors also urge runners to make sure they are in good health
before entering a marathon. They say forty-two kilometers is a long
way to run as fast as you can, without stopping.
But many marathon runners say it is exciting to cross the finish
line. "You feel terribly tired," says a runner from Encino,
California. "At the same time, you feel just wonderful."
This program was written by Shelley Gollust and Jerilyn Watson.
It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
VOICE ONE :
And I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for THIS IS
AMERICA in Special English on the Voice of America.