As we began our long, slow run this morning, my friend immediately launched into her pet peeve of the day.
Apparently, actress Valerie Bertinelli will be running the Boston Marathon this April. She plans to join more than 500 runners who hope to raise $4.5 million for research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Bertinelli, once a star of the sitcom One Day at a Time, is most recently known as the celebrity spokeswoman for the Jenny Craig weight loss program. She has lost about 50 pounds and to keep her fitness momentum, she set some athletic goals for herself. In July, she completed the Wine Country Half Marathon in California in 2:12:19.
In an article in People after the half marathon, Bertinelli hinted at her next goal. "My trainer things I'm going to do a marathon before I'm 50. I have until April," she said in the article. "I'm not committing yet. I haven't wrapped my head around it. We're negotiating."
Apparently, the negotiations are done.
On Monday she appeared on the Today show and talked, among other things, about running the famed Boston Marathon. "I"m really going to do it," she said on the show. "I'm training right now and come April 19, four days before my 50th birthday, I'll be running 26.2 miles."
What has my friend in a frenzy is the combination of celebrity, cancer research and the Boston marathon. She is a cancer survivor and a former Boston qualifier and finishers. She would love to get back to Boston, but her road back to racing has her slower since her treatments.
If Bertinelli wanted to raise money and awareness for cancer research, she could have picked any other marathon. But people spend their entire lives working to qualify for Boston. Additionally, my friend would be more sympathetic, perhaps even more encouraging, if Bertineli took the charity spot in the most famous marathon as a cancer survivor, or as someone known for her continued efforts in cancer research.
Instead, what Bertinelli looks like to my friend is a celebrity getting special treatment, picking a charity so that she can run Boston.
Heck, even people who reached Boston's qualifying standards were shut out of this year's race because it sold out.
Personally, I think races with charity spots have their place. I like the idea of people supporting a cause, a community through a challenging athletic endeavor.
But you have to pick your spots.
Bertinelli's Boston marathon quest will be portrayed more for her weight loss and role as the Jenny Craig spokeswoman than it will to raise awareness and money for a worthy cancer research center.
Charity runners and qualifiers (or elite runners) can co-exist. And I believe there is plenty of room for all at the table.
But you do have to be sensitive to the meaning and significance of the event.