2011 Chicago Marathon Runners

I’m a fan of the Chicago Marathon. The first reason is obvious—it’s cool to see a huge crowd of people running through the streets of the city and to shut down some of the car traffic in celebration of the most natural way that human beings transport themselves. But what I also like about the Chicago Marathon is that it feels in many ways like the last day of summer (or the last day of warm weather until the spring) as well as a celebration of the fall—it’s the timing more than the event, but that’s always been the connotation in my mind.

What’s funny is that while the marathon, even with the sometimes brutal effects it has on the body, can have a calming air about it, the word’s other definition is the exact opposite—endurance to the point of overload, so much of something that people question your sanity. Law and Order marathons on TV. Phone-a-thons on public access. Hot dog eating contests. The word “marathon” may not always imply something healthy or fulfilling. And in some ways, the Internet itself is a marathon—a nonstop endurance test of information acquisition and data overload (sometimes in the form of cat GIFs).

Because the Chicago Marathon is this week, and because excess and endurance are always choice subjects, this week’s Variations on a Theme is Marathon Week. All week long, look for blog posts by Reader writers about running, TV show blocks, or anything else that we think of whenever we hear the word “marathon.”

And in case you missed writing about stuff you missed, here’s Recycling Week, last week’s Variations on a Theme.