Employee Number 540

22 June 2007

The Maniac Logo

Like Michael Dukakis before me, I am now a card carrying member of a noted progressive organization. Rather than focusing intently on civil rights litigation, my group is dedicated to running marathons… lots of them. It’s not exactly a lofty proposition, but we can’t take ourselves seriously every minute, can we?

Certainly this group does not. These are the Marathon Maniacs. I’m number 540.

The Maniacs organized in 2003 when a group of extremely motivated runners decided to codify their marathon addiction. Today, this can mean dozens of marathons annually. Maniac #1 recently completed a Heinz special – 57 marathons in one year. The frequent flyer implications alone boggle the mind.

If you’ve run a marathon recently you may have seen a Maniac, easily identifiable by the shocking yellow singlets. They’re far from shy. Clearly, this is society for people with way too much free time and an oddball itch to fill it with rigorous aerobic exercise.

And they’re deliciously irreverent. You have to love an organization whose spasmodic runner logo (reminiscent of Robert Crumb) comes complete with an extremely distressed black cat perched on his head. The whole thing conjures up images of obsessively compulsive runners jaunting along, iPods set to Enigma’s quasi hip-hop Gregorian chants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Maniacs aren’t the Stone Cutters or anything.

Of course, the Maniacs don’t just run marathons, they keep score. Members track their conquests on a bare-knuckles, gaudy website. There, in the “insane Asylum,” marathons are tracked by volume, location, and frequency. I can only guess that this showcasing satisfies a latent need for attention. Perhaps the maniacs all have an innocuously mild case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Who knows?

One thing is certain; those who run the most marathons are rated highest. Membership levels are named after elements of the periodic table (mostly, as we shall see). The rarer the element, the more difficult the requirement to achieve it. In a demented nod to grammar school reward charts, stars denote level. The more stars, the better.

Levels should not be confused with seniority, which is simply numerical. You’re given a number when you join and it locks you into the pecking order. I hope this doesn’t mean that maniacs 1 through 539 can make me do their laundry or something.

To recap; We’ve got numerical seniority, anal-retentive documentation, requirements, stars, designations and levels. Bureaucratized Maniacism: That’s what we’ve come to.

The rating system does however, get points for style. The delightfully obscure Iridium Level (4 stars) requires 19-25 marathons in one year. Up the chain, the Osmium Level (6 stars) can be reached if you finish 6 marathons in 16 days. The highest level, Titanium, boasts 10 stars and requires 52 marathons in one year. I can just see the Maniacs now, bad dubbing and all, “Your Ruthenium kung-fu is strong, but my Palladium cannot be defeated!”

I must bow to such achievement. You see, I’m just a bronze Maniac.

Bronze is not even an element. It’s just a measly alloy; the only one on the list. For this lowest of all levels (1 star), I ran two marathons in 8 days, squeaking in by the skin of my plebeian teeth.

I guess this means that at Marathon Maniac conventions, I’ll be the guy handing out towels in the rest room.

Hey, I just work here.

- #540
White Space

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