...Coming from a track background and having run from an early age, There are a lot of people I think who shouldn’t run races…
I believe races should have cut off times, maybe 2h15/2h30 for a half, and if you can’t finish in that time start on a shorter race. Do some training before you start wanting to run races. Over 2 hours of exercise is a lot and you shouldn’t be taking on something like that if your aren’t ready for it.
All that said lots of people want to walk a half and that has pushed away cut-off times opening the door to people who shouldn’t be lining up. But thinking back to when I was 5, I bet I was running around playing for hours at a time and if I had lined up for a half it would have been easy. I mean I would play, run around, in the forest for 4 or 5 hours though out the summer. But I would never have wanted to run a road race…
Wooooo! Blog drama! Now, I know most of you have read this comment as it was originally posted. And I know many of you probably read my wife, Michael's, response on her blog. And like Michael I won't identify the original blog post, the author of the comment, or his own blog site by name to maintain a level of anonymity. My intent isn't to shame this person for his shameful comments, but rather to bring to light the holier-than-thou attitudes held by some in the running community. That said, we're all entitled to our opinion, but I definitely have some fairly passionate thoughts on these insensitive, ignorant, short-sighted, and condescending comments.
I'll start with a couple of disclaimers. First, in trying to extend this author the benefit of the doubt, it's entirely possible these words didn't come out in print as they were intended in his head. He's probably a great guy who just came off the wrong way. As writers, we all know it can happen. In fact ironically, I offered my own emotional half-thought out opinion in response to his comments on Michael's blog earlier today, and inadvertently offended a whole country ... of which I've since deleted. I said this person "Ran track in a third world country". It was insensitive and irresponsible. But understand it was simply an attempt at the time to belittle him and his comments by insulting something about him. Indeed an immature approach. I deleted the comment because it's not how I feel and didn't want to offend anyone from that corner of the world. Instead, I decided to clearly articulate how I feel about the matter here, unclouded by careless passing words about a country I've never traveled to and have nothing against. Secondly, since this gentleman is from a different country than mine, maybe the disconnect is simply cultural. Sometimes attitudes and prevailing cultural norms don't translate. Maybe I'm the one who just doesn't get it. And finally, the comments admittedly probably affected me most because I felt like it was an attack on my self-proclaimed, somewhat velocity-challenged spouse. So yes, I understand I'm mostly just defending my lady ... I got your back girl!
There's just so much in this comment that begs response. But I'll start with this ... who appointed this guy the race cut-off time authority? Just so you know, ability-wise this fellow is only a little faster than as me based on his race reports. He's not elite by any means. He's not special. He's somewhat above average, but mostly just fairly ordinary. But apparently he thinks his talent allows him to pass judgement on folks not as speedy as he is. It's just simply incredibly narrow minded and obtuse. So basically, if you're not in this gentleman's league, you're not worthy of racing. Well what if Ryan Hall or Meb thought he wasn't worthy of racing just because he wasn't in their league. Speed's just so relative and inconsequential to this discussion.
Also, who said that SPEED is 100% predicated on CONDITIONING??? There are a lot of ultra runners who couldn't stay with me once around the track ... but in an ultra marathon, they'd drop me at 30 miles. Why ... because they're greatly conditioned. Plus, some folks are just naturally slower, but it doesn't mean they don't work at it. It's just the way their made. Why doesn't a football lineman run as fast as a receiver? They're just put together differently. My wife works her butt off training. She logs the miles, and completes all the workouts, but the girl is just not fleet of foot. A couple of her friends are the same. It in no way reflects their conditioning. That's just a really limited observation to make.
In fact, I've posted several writings in the past about how much I respect folks, who though not as fleet of foot, still go out and accomplish their goals. I have an unbelievable amount of respect for someone who is never going to finish in the front of the pack, but still puts their body through the training, just to cross the finish line at the end of the day. If you follow my blog, I think you obviously understand that I too work my butt off in this sport. But honestly, I LOVE it ... and a lot of the training comes somewhat easily to me. But here's a newsflash ... it's not easy for a lot of runners out there. It's incredibly hard! Maybe we don't train at the same speeds, but it takes a special focus and will power to complete the training when you know you're never going to be in the top half of a race. And for this reason, I think the folks who finish hours after me in a marathon have 10-times the commitment and dedication I do! Man, just go stand at the finish line during the last 30 minutes of a race. You know who'll still be there cheering ... NO ONE! But you know who's crossing the finish line during those last minutes before cutoff ... REAL CHAMPIONS!!! The courageous folks who have to fight and claw through almost every step off the race ... just to finish. A lot of them are walking, limping, crying tears of joy and pain, as they dragging their bodies those final few miles ... but they finish! And they have more heart than I ever will!
The overall timbre of his statement is what really bugs me. Unfortunately, it's been my experience that he's not alone with his point of view. As I've made my way closer to the front of the pack over the years, I've noticed many of the folks I stand to shoulder-to-shoulder with on race day echo these same sentiments. There's a lot of arrogance, and an incredible amount of competition ... and not much tolerance for those not blessed with their ability. For the most part, the running community is a wonderfully caring and giving group of folks who are passionate about the sport we love. But unfortunately, there are also many like this gentleman who think that because they simply have a few races under their belt, they can pass judgment on everyone. Headphones infuriate them. Bright colored running gear annoys them. They think medals for everyone is stupid and rewards mediocrity. And they just want these "slow, fat, non-conditioned, losers" off of their course and out of their sport. They feel it somewhat diminishes their accomplishment if everyone does it. You know the type, they've never actually won a major race or been at the top of the running community, but rather, they have just enough natural ability to make them think they're really something special. They pass judgement on the folks they perceive to be lesser, in an attempt to glorify themselves. It's pathetic and sad. They just don't get it. "Wow ... you won your age group again. Congrats!" But there's always about 10% of the field that finishes ahead of them. If they were really special they'd be first. But they never are. They're merely a little more than ordinary. But apparently this qualifies you as a racing and running expert.
There is a wonderful young contestant on American Idol right now. She has a birth defect that has left her arms and hands somewhat deformed and a little smaller than normal. She's an awesome singer and still in the competition as one of the final contestants. These ignorant comments are the equivalent of saying that since this young lady doesn't LOOK like the typical star, she shouldn't be allowed to compete. I mean, could someone be any less compassionate? And speaking of physically challenged ... what about wheel chair athletes? This person obviously finishes way ahead of them in his races. Should they "not be lining up" to race either? I'm just curious how far and wide this guy's hate spreads. Most old people are slower. Should they be plucked from the course when they reach a certain age? Maybe this guy should decide. He seems very level-headed and really good at judging everyone.
I really struggle with understanding why folks like this are so consumed with getting people out of their sport. It's like some golfers. I like playing golf. But I don't play a lot because typically when you go into the clubhouse, you're surrounded by guys in really nice pants, expensive golf clubs, and perfectly gelled hair. They cast a disparaging stare if you don't appear to share their income bracket. Why can't I just go play golf without feeling like I have to pass a credit application process first? I'm sure some of the slower runners feel the same way when they're around this guy. Why can't he simply welcome runners to "his" sport? All runners? Why can't he be more accepting? Has he ever told one of the slower half marathoners he passes at the end of a marathon "Great job!" ... or "Lookin' good, keep it up"? Probably not. For some of those folks ... that race is the most amazing thing they've ever done ... JUST BY WALKING IT!!! The last thing they need is some pompous jerk telling them they're not good enough ... because they didn't run the whole thing??? I really try to encourage almost every runner I pass at the end of a race. It's amazing how people are actually lifted up when you say nice things to them. And at then end of the day, it probably has an even greater effect on me! But when you look down on people and make simply pitiful comments like this, well ... you just look like an ass.
So anyway, that's my rant. I would love to talk to this gentleman one on one sometime. Few things get me fired up like his comments did, but I also try to be understanding. I'm sure he had his personal reasons for the things he said. I would love to hear his insight and maybe gain some perspective. But who knows, maybe this is how he really feels. And maybe he's right. Maybe we should just kill all the slow runners. Maybe they're only in our way.
... be great today!