|Getting my AG award at the Cerner 15K in 2011 ... winning an |
occasional AG = "accomplished runner" ... absolutely not!
But the other day I read that a local running publication referred to a young 27 year old local female runner, who's marathon PR is 2:44, and 5K PR is 16:26, as a "Very Accomplished Runner". That really puzzled me. I mean, I've seen this girl at several races and she usually smokes me. She's very fast. And honestly, I don't know her personally, so maybe she has actually accomplished a lot in her life ... but I think the phrase is often used out of context, and thrown around too loosely in the running community. It's not that the use of the term elevates her - she probably deserves it - but for some reason I feel like it classifies the rest of us, who aren't in her particular speed league, as "unaccomplished". We just put so much emphasis on speed in this sport ... I think too much.
I tried to explain this thought to Michael and she told me I was making something out of nothing, so I'll try to articulate it clearly here ...
For the most part, I think most of us are born with a set speed limit. I think there's a window, or range, in which we can get better and improve ... ya know, we kinda are what we are as far as speed goes. Maybe a certain guy can improve a 4:09 marathon best to a 3:45 with enough hard work. Or maybe a different girl can whittle a 21:50 5K down to a 19-something. But these two folks are NEVER going to run a 2:30 marathon or a 15:00 5K. Their legs just won't turn over fast enough. NEVER. EVER. EVER. However, even though they won't qualify for the Olympics, set land speed records, or even win an Age Group award, they can certainly maximize their potential and ACCOMPLISH great things within their "speed window".
And for that, I just don't understand the phrase "accomplished runner", when you're most likely simply referring to individual foot speed that a person was born with. I mean, a runner who finishes in the 5 hour'ish neighborhood for a marathon is never tagged with this moniker, but shouldn't they be? For example, if two runners set out to run a marathon ... and they have similar training plans ... and do all the same drills ... and eat the same diet ... basically prepare exactly the same way ... but one runner PR's with an a 6:05/mile (2:39 marathon) during the race, and the other PR's with a 11:09/mile (4:52 marathon) ... does that mean the faster runner is "more accomplished", or they "accomplished more"? No, it just means they're faster. That's all. Nothing more. The slower runner, in this example, is just as "accomplished".
When Michael and I started this discussion, she said, "Well, some would view you as an accomplished runner." I was kinda shocked by that statement, and said, "What ... me, why ... I'm not an accomplished runner at all!" But she offered, "Well, you've ran 27 marathons, ran Boston, finish toward the top of a lot of races, and win your age group all the time - you're an accomplished runner." But I rejected this notion because again, all we are talking about is someone having above average speed, and the ability to find small enough races to occasionally win my Age Group.
In fact, personally I would refer to someone like my wife as much more of an "accomplished runner" than me ... if the phrase truly means you've accomplished something in running. I want to say this carefully and not come across as arrogant, or bragger'ish... but completing a marathon just isn't that difficult at times for me. Sure I have to work at it, I mean it's 26 miles. But the challenge has always been running it at the desired speed goal I set for myself. But I've always felt like miles come somewhat more easily for me than someone like my wife. Michael, will be the first to admit, has just never been a natural runner. But she has trained her but off for three marathons now, and powered through all of them. In my mind, simply finishing the marathon is a much more difficult task for someone like Michael ... ergo - she is more ACCOMPLISHED when she crosses the finish line.
Why do we assume, that just because someone is naturally fleet of foot because of their genetic makeup, that they are "great", or "accomplished". Do we assumed that just because someone is 6'8" tall, he is an "accomplished grower"? Of course not, that's just dumb. Do we call someone who is just naturally physically attractive an "accomplished beauty"? No, there's no such thing. Why then, when a particular runner can make it from Point A to Point B more quickly than most of us, are they automatically assumed to be "accomplished". Is a cheetah more accomplished than a pig, because I'm sure the cheetah's going to win 100% of the foot races, and then probably enjoy the pig for dinner - but that's something else.
This of course doesn't assume that most of the faster runners don't work diligently at their craft. Many work very hard and really grow in the sport. But I know a couple of very fast runners who train very little and don't seem to put in the work of others, and they still finish very high in races. Did they "accomplish" as much as someone who trained for months for the same race and actually went above and beyond their potential? I don't think so.
Anyway, the point is ... I have no idea what "accomplished runner" really means. It's probably just in the eye of the beholder. For me, "accomplished" means the great ones like Meb, Pre, Salazar, Jurek, Mutai, etc., or someone who reached a goal they never imagined they could meet. But I know how the phrase is most commonly referenced, but I just don't agree with it. Again, this is in no way a negative commentary on the young runner I mentioned earlier. She very well might have accomplished great things in her running career. I just have a problem elevating someone simply because they're faster than us. How about instead of calling everyone who wins a race or two, "accomplished" ... we just call them a naturally fast runner and leave it at that.
... be great today!