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Finishing the Marathon without Running It

The marathon is one of the most strenuous athletic events in sport. The Boston Marathon attracts the best runners in the world. The winner is automatically placed among the great athletes of our time. A few years ago, Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to cross the finish line. She had the laurel wreath placed on her head in a blaze of lights and cheering.

She was completely unknown in the world of running. An incredible feat! Her first race a victory in the prestigious Boston Marathon! Then someone noticed her legs—loose flesh, cellulite. Questions were asked. No one had seen her along the 26.2-mile course. The truth came out: she had jumped into the race during the last mile.

There was immediate and widespread interest in Rosie. Why would she do that when it was certain that she would be found out? Athletic performance cannot be faked. But she never admitted her fraud. She repeatedly said that she would run another marathon to validate her ability. Somehow, she never did. People interviewed her, searching for a clue to her personality. She was analyzed as a sociopath. She lied convincingly and naturally with no sense of conscience, no sense of reality in terms of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

In reading about Rosie, we can think of all the people we know who want to get in on the finish but who cleverly arrange not to run the race. They appear in church on Sunday wreathed in smiles, entering into the celebration, but there is no personal life that leads up to it or out from it. They are plausible and convincing. But in the end, they do not run the race, believing through the tough times, praying the lonely, angry, hurt hours. The proper name for such a person is a religiopath.

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