Having completed marathons on all seven continents, it was only natural for me to seek membership of the club for runners with the same accomplishment on their CVs. To my amazement, I ascertained that there were two clubs of that kind and that both clubs had two Danish members, although there were four different runners. I rather wondered why there wasn’t one club for everyone, but later discovered that approval depends on who you are. To me it seemed rather like the boxing world, where different organisations recognise each their own champions.
I wrote to one of the seven-continents clubs, but they soon let me know in no uncertain terms that I certainly wasn’t welcome. Basically, I ascertained that the club’s founder – who was also a travel and Marathon organiser – didn’t like Steve and therefore refused to recognise his runners. This organiser was, among other things, the organiser of a marathon further south on the Antarctica mainland. It was obviously a thorn in his side that someone else should organise a marathon on the White Continent. He angrily accused Steve of all sorts of crimes, from name theft to circumvention of the rules. He was furious that some of the runners had been allowed to complete their run in Punta Arenas and that a child had taken part in Steve’s run. He made me particularly aware of the fact that I actually hadn’t run a marathon in Antarctica because, in his opinion, King George Island was not part of that continent.
It was, of course, right enough that some of the runners had, because of unfortunate circumstances, had to divide their run between King George Island and Punta Arenas, but I was unaware of anybody having claimed on that background to having completed an official marathon in Antarctica. Allowing people to complete the run in Chile was simply a way of compensating them in a situation for which no one was responsible.
It was also correct that a boy took part in both the races on our trip, but he had been accompanied by his father throughout both. They had walked quite a lot of the time and were altogether pretty good at looking after themselves. In addition, a doctor had been keeping them – and the rest of the runners – under constant surveillance. For the rest of us on that trip, there was nothing dramatic or irresponsible about this, something which all the same had given a competitor in a completely different part of the world the ammunition to his dirty war.
I had no desire whatsoever to be a member of his club, which I also wrote to him. I found it necessary, however, to point out that I actually had completed the full distance on King George Island and that the island was, in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty of 23rd June 1961, officially a part of the White Continent. His next argument was that King George Island couldn’t be accepted because it was an island and not part of the mainland. I had no desire to try and change his conception of things, although I did feel I had to test his morals and sincerity. I, therefore, wrote to him again to ask whether he accepted the London Marathon as a European run and the Tokyo Marathon as an Asian one. Of course, he did.
This made no sense to me. I was simply able to ascertain that there was professional jealousy between competitors. As I said before, I wasn’t interested in joining his club and since became a member of Steve’s entirely new “The Official 7 Continents Marathon Club”. So now there are three clubs. Who knows where it will end?
I have since discovered that my experiences are by no means unique and have seen several examples of marathon organisers in disagreement with each other. Enmity arises in relation to names, rights and slogans when one organiser markets themselves on the basis of events organised by another. One of the things I have seen is an organiser handing out brochures for his own marathons at the finish of another organiser’s run, in which event many harsh words flew!
I think it’s a crying shame that it has to be that way. In my opinion, there should be room for everyone, and the resulting synergy would make everyone stronger. If only people could stand together in a sporting way instead of fighting each other.
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