The first thing to say is that if you haven’t tried to run a marathon quickly, in the heat, then you should keep quiet about whether she could have continued, etc. When the wheels come off marathon running, then it feels pretty much unlike anything else you’ll experience in life. I experienced it in a London marathon. I got to twenty miles in just over two hours. It took an hour and ten minutes to run the next six miles, so you get the picture.
But the interesting thing from a philosophical, sociological point of view is that somehow moral judgements seem to infect how we view sporting feats. It isn’t a character flaw to stop when you’re about to collapse from heat exhuastion, it’s sensible. When I was fairly serious about this running lark, I would train with people who were very serious. In their world, my comparative lack of seriousness was considered to be a moral flaw. They’d continually harp on about the fact that "I wasn’t fulfilling my potential", etc. Well, newsflash guys, there isn’t a moral requirement that we should fulfill our potentials; if people are happy with mediocrity, as I am, then let them be (so long as they don’t write for the Guardian). Food fascists are the same incidentally. Oh you must try this cod with avacado and peach. No, sod off, I like pizza!
And there’s a thing about the running obsessives that I used to mix with. Their personal lives are a disaster area. Because they are through and through self-obsessed, as well as running-obsessed. If you read athletics magazines, periodically they’ll tell the story of Ron Hill, who never missed a training session in his life (or pretty much he didn’t), even when he’d had an operation the same day. They write about him as if he’s some kind of hero. Well, he isn’t. He’s pathological. And shouldn’t be allowed out, or near children.
Update: Paula’s going to run the 10km tonight. Anybody who has ever run a marathon will know that this is mind-boggling.