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Monday, October 26, 2009

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo! I'm Faster Than You!

So, I first spotted this article because Jen posted it on her blog. How could I pass up an article like this? You know I had to post it on my blog.

The article basically states that runners who finish a marathon slower than an 11 minute pace, or a 4:48 total time, is not really running a marathon. Somehow, running at this pace or slower degrades the marathon, and it devalues the medals of those who "truly" ran. And the New York Times published this two weeks before the New York Marathon, a race that they sponsor -- a race with a large percentage of people in the back of the pack. And this is the same newspaper that published an article about a soldier who took two weeks to finish a marathon. Bravo!

Here is a quote from Friday's article:
“It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours,” said Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984. “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’ ”
In a debate on the Web site, someone posting as Record10 Carbon wrote that more than half of the people at a marathon are just overweight and “trying to get a shirt and medal ... looking to one day tell a story about the saga and the suffering of their 11 minute pace ‘race.’ ”
Oh, gosh. Where do I start?

These statements are silly on so many levels. I mean, for a start, if you're doing a 4:30, I hate to burst your bubble, but you're not exactly an elite. If you are a man, you aren't going to qualify for Boston with a 4:30 unless you're in your 70s. And ladies, a 4:30 only gets you a Boston Qualifying time if you're 60 years old or older. So, in fact, you're just like me, just another average joe out there running 26 miles to get a medal and nothing else. That Kenyan in the front isn't going to be bowing down to your superiority just like you're not bowing down to mine. To think that there's some magical formula out there making you more special than me is just foolishness.

And I've got news for you - if it's running rather than run/walking the whole race that makes you feel so smug, you're out on that, too. My friends who have qualified for Boston take walk breaks. My friends who run 4:30 and better take walk breaks. We all take walk breaks, and a lot of us are passing you. Plus, two days later when you're still icing your legs? We're walking around like nothing happened. Because we take care of ourselves. No one is giving you a pat on the back for not walking, they're laughing at you. We know the secret and you're too full of pride to give it a shot. There aren't special medals for those who run vs. walk vs. run/walk, but go ahead and plan a race that rewards running the whole 26 if you want. No one is stopping you.

That's the key here - there are races with all sorts of target participants. Disney aims for all-inclusive - everyone. That's why it has a 7 hour time limit. The Breast Cancer Marathon aims to raise money and get people to the race - including training people who have never run before. Boston showcases running's greatest, and has a qualifying time. Marathons exist with strict cutoff times, and require runners to run within a certain time limit. I have never heard a runner upset that he can't enter a particular race because of a time limit, and I hang with a whole lot of slow people. We run the races that are appropriate for us, and so should elites and mid-pack people. It's up to the race director to decide what the limits on a race should be, and it is up to every participant to know what those are and obey them.

Some people argue that what is meant by this article is that faster runners can be held back by slower runners trying to get into the front of the pack. Faster runners then are forced to run around those who are walking, or those who are slower than they are. That's fine, if you want to use that argument. I side with you, in fact. I get really annoyed running around packs of walkers, too, even at my pace. It is a matter of courtesy to be aware of those around you and yield to someone who is faster than you. However, I don't argue for even one second that those walkers don't have as much of a right to be there as I do.

The fact of the matter is, marathons are full these days because of people like me. I pay my race entry fees, too, and some of that money goes towards awards that I can never hope to earn. I recently posted here about what I think about when choosing a race, and not once have I chosen a race because of prize money. But, I pay for the prize money, don't I? And I'm not complaining, because I actually (gasp!) admire those who win awards, I congratulate them and hope to be up there someday with them. The thought that they're looking down on me like I don't even deserve my medal is not only insulting, but wrong. Do you think Marine Corps or New York could afford all of those amenities if it weren't for race entry fees from runners like me?

So what, really, is the problem? If you're really doing a 4:30, you won't see me at the start because I'm in a different corral. You won't see me during the race because I'm behind you with no hope of catching up. You won't see me at the finish because it is another hour and a half before I get there, and by then you will hopefully be at home showering. Is it just that the mere thought that someone else is out there running YOUR race slower than you is too much? I can't fathom this. I can't fathom that people are wasting their time thinking about this for even one second, that they are truly that shallow.

Next comes the insinuation that if you are finishing a race in more than 5 hours, that you must not have trained. REALLY? You think that the secret to getting anybody under 5 hours is just to train harder? If there were some magical training plan that would get me to finish a race in under 5 hours, I'd do it in a second. I have the time. But, I better not get injured in the process. Trust me, this body isn't going under 5 hours for a long, long time, if ever. I'm out there every weekend, 52 weeks a year. Technically, I started training for Disney 2010 in January 2008, and I STILL will have a challenge just getting in under SIX hours. I have never heard something so absurd.

This is all nonsense, and something that I just can't stay angry about because it's so, so, stupid. My running and friends are about support. I don't compete with the people that I run with, because that atmosphere is poisonous. In fact, I choose not to run with anyone who starts to act the least bit competitive (and not supportive). I'm not saying you're wrong in wanting to compete with others, just leave me out of it, I don't want in on your game. That's why I chose running and not some other sport in the first place. My own demons are enough to fight without you getting involved.

I mean, have you ever heard of karma? Do you think you could never be me? Do you want to hear my stories of people I've run with at my pace? Anything can happen. Car accident. Arthritis. Cancer. Heart disease. Bum knees. Or, just plain age. 4:30 might be your best time, and someday you might be back here with the guy juggling and the guy dressed in a tuxedo, and you might be struggling to finish that marathon at all -- and then 6 hours may not seem so horrible. Bad things can happen to everyone, you're not immune because you ran a 4-hour race once. And if it does, we'll be back there, ready to take your hand and help you cross that finish line, because that is what back of the pack people do. We're here to be sure that everyone finishes, no matter what insults they may have slung at us in the past. And we will cross that line and wear our medals proudly, no matter how much you try to bring us down.


Beth said...

Well said, Kim!! My Dad sent me the NY Post article this week and I could feel my blood pressure rising as I read it! Thank you for a well-written, rational response!!

Wacky Neighbor said...

Every hobby/activity/pursuit seems to have its own group of hard-core snobs. I have found in my limited exposure that running's snobs tend to be on average more insufferable.

I think your blog is exactly right. Short of slower runners acting rudely - blocking faster runners, whatever - why should anyone care how many other people/how fast other people run? As if running a 4:00 marathon means less if a bunch of people run a 5:30 marathon? And I agree, there wouldn't be multiple marathons in the U.S. every weekend if it weren't for the growing number of running enthusiasts, many of whom are relatively slower. If they feel less special (and really, why are you doing it if you're just trying to impress people?) - go do something else that they feel like is more special. Phooey.

andygoose said...

It often surprises me that in 2009 we still have people whose stance is "If you're not like me you shouldn't participate."

Lacey Nicole said...

i think no matter what distance, anytime anyone crosses a finish line regardless of time, it's an accomplishment. i think there is something to be said for "running YOUR race."

saundra said...

Thanks for this! 26.2 is still 26.2 regardless of pace.

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