Friday, November 22, 2013

Kill The Slow Runners

Man, this was not a great day.  First, I locked myself out of my room at my hotel.  Next, I lost to Coy at Words With Friends for the first time in weeks.  And then, I read this comment left as a response on one of my favorite blogs ...

           ...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!


  1. It's a very elitist attitude and certainly not one I ascribe to. Speed wasn't handed out to everyone on an equal basis and lack of speed doesn't mean lack of training. It was an ignorant comment by an ignorant person.

  2. Well, I left my thoughts on this on Michael's post, so I won't copy it here. The whole clique-y vibe you've experienced is certainly not the norm in MY experience...which shows me how lucky I am.

    My teammates have a name for the people who show up with the best of everything and snotty attitudes...PAMs (Poser A$$ Mother... You get the idea.).

    All the downed leaves can hide holes in the trail, roots, sticks, etc. I'm always waiting to go over my handlebars.

  3. Thank you!!! At least I could compete in his 1/2... I wouldn't want to, ever. This attitude and I feared all fast runners had; it was what kept me from getting involved with my local running club. I've since found they really don't care. As one said to me, Beth, we cheer on the last person in as much as we cheer the first person, even more, because they didn't quit.

    Thank you for this, really. I'm going to look for your wife's blog too!!

  4. AWWWW...he isn't as big of a dick as he came across in that comment. But yeah, it could definitely be interpreted as offensive.

  5. Ahhhh. Thanks! In coming to your wife's defense, you came to mine. I run races as a personal challenges. And since most of them are on extremely difficult terrain with mucho elevation gain, my race is against the cut-off anyway. To make the cut-off's even shorter would be eliminating me from the beginning. I'm happy to be out there coming in toward the end of the pack. And I love races that allow walkers to complete the race.

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  7. Attitudes like this are what deters people from even attempting to run. Glad to know you've got your wife (and us slow pokes) back(s). :)

  8. Can´t believe I have to defend this guy. His comment was less offensive than yours. In your comment (or in this post) it was not just a problem with a 3rd country comment, seemingly it becomes important to you to rank countries when you are pissed off. You are offending this guy simply because of his opinion. According to you, he is an asshole, arrogant, narrow-minded, etc... It is just that your comment is now deleted, while his is not, and now he is crucified. No, nobody "appointed him" to set cut-off times, he simply has an opinion about it and expressed it. The cut-off times exist. Some people think it is appropriate 4h for a half, he thinks it is 2:30. But you know what? It does not matter what he thinks, or you. It is up to race organizers, and their decisions are driven by market and profit chasing, mainly. Cool off.

  9. Thank you for your comment, and I appreciate your point of view.

    Just so you understand, I removed my "Third World Country" comment because it was simply a passing jab that was completely inaccurate, irrelevant to the conversation, and not specifically related to his country. I probably would have used the phrase for any country, regardless of where he was from. And if he would have been from the United States, I probably would have used it for the particular State he was from. At the time, it simply was used as an ill advised way to belittle him ... not his country. But after I posted it I realized that it was really offensive for some citizens from that particular country, (mind you not all, because I got two different emails from folks from that same country, laughing at agreeing with the comment) and my intent is not really to offend anyone. So I removed it. The removal is why I restated my feelings here ... so they would be clearly understood without an insensitive careless remark about a country that I've never even been to clouding the issue.

    I don't know this gentleman, and like I went out of my way to point out in the post - he's probably a good guy. The overall point here is that there is no need for this attitude, from anyone regardless of ability. And by the way, his point was not simply ... "He thinks there should be shorter cutoff times". That's sort of twisting his words to make them less impactful. If that were merely is point, I could have lived with that. Rather, his overwhelming point was ... "Slower runners didn't train and don't have any business lining up". Just so you understand, that's what everyone is so upset about. Not only on this blog. But also on my wife's. And on the original post where he left the comment. There have been many comments that disagree with his outlook on running and racing.

    You're indeed correct friend, we're all entitled to our opinions. I just felt like the comments were a faster athlete picking on or judging those who are not blessed with his ability. And as a somewhat faster athlete myself, I just felt it merited a response. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I really value your opinion. Have a great weekend.

  10. Thanks for this. I have no idea the background to this discussion, so I can't comment on that ---- but, there's plenty of this sentiment out there and it's really discouraging for beginning runners and those of us who will just always be slower no matter how much we train. What's the point of belittling us - how does that help the snobs in their races (I mean, just focus on your own race and you'll do better, right?)? And how does having slower folks out there hurt anyone? (Again, "my race, my pace")!

  11. In a way, I understand his comment. I don't think whether or not you should race a half or a full marathon has anything to do with speed - I run with, or know well, many runners who post race times slower than mine, yet are infinitely better runners overall (more consistency, fewer injuries, more longevity in the sport, better contributors or volunteers, coaches, sage givers of advice, mentors). But I think - maybe, I didn't see the entire exchange - the comment touched a little on race preparedness. I have noticed that many people take on the marathon or half marathon too early in their running career, and it doesn't serve them well: they aren't ready for the distance, and they are easily injured or discouraged. I count myself in that group: I ran several junk marathons that only served to tax my ill-prepared body. So I agree with that angle - that runners should choose a distance they are prepared to run well. However, I don't think that finishing time is the meter by which we should measure preparedness. I run with a brilliantly consistent 64 year old woman who runs a 2:40 half, but can knock those out several times a year injury-free. If anyone is prepared, she is, even if "slow" by some standards!

  12. Thank you.
    From the slow Canadian over here.:)
    I would love to know what blog this came from

  13. I am behind on the reading and I just read the post and now see it all.... Nice nice....

  14. I think your response was lovely and much appreciated. Just did a very hilly 8k this morning and was thrilled to have finished it in under an hour, post injuries.

    For those of us who love to run, and enter races once in awhile just for the experience, and as part of keeping our motivation going, it's so saddening when we encounter elitist attitudes like this.

    I promise you, I will get out of your way when you want to pass me, I won't block the lanes running with my friends six across, and I will cheer you happily on when you get your medal for your finishing best in your age group.

    But spare me the holier than thou attitude about times. Qualify for Boston if you want, but I got into running because it made me feel happy.. and all I needed was some cute kicks.


  15. Ugh, I cannot deal with elitist morons like that. There are so many things wrong with that kind of attitude--morally and logically--that I don't even know where to start. Thanks for supporting *everyone* who works hard & shows up to do their best and/or have fun and/or just get some fresh air & exercise.

  16. First your title cracked me up. I read this comment before Michael had her great post and chickened out from commenting but it offended me hugely. It's not a new issue but truly one I just don't get. Why do some faster runners get their panties in a twist over the slower runners out there? Shouldn't we all be out improving our well being and health? Thanks for having your wife's back and the rest of us!

  17. I commented on the same comment, and yes, I'm a slower runner and I was offended. Ironically, today, the same person responded to my comment:

    I’m sorry if I touched a nerve, but maybe it’s me as a coach that is upset with runners… And be all means it’s not the back of the pack runners, but it’s the front guys!!!

    I remember back to went I started running and running a 73min half in a small race would place me about 20th. Last year I finished 5th in a half with a time of 74:30, and in a big race this year with 10 times more people and ran a 74:30, I place about 20th.

    So yes the number of runners have increased, but the number of front runners has decreased… Now while this might be good for the health of a country, till people start to put there bodies on the line and go for good times the Kenyans will dominate the front of the field.

    I’m not saying all of you have a hidden Kenyan inside, but some of you do, and I long to see it released. A friend of mine ran her 1st half in 2h15, and yes it was fun and she could have been happy with that, she wasn’t and now runs a 1h22 half!!!

    So there you go. Apology while not being apologetic. Oh wells :D

  18. I hesitated commenting on this post. The original comment didn't sound like a good one. I actually saw the blog post that this originated in, and I've been interacting with the commenter for 2 years maybe. I will say that the commenter has given me probably the best and most constructive advice of anyone out there in terms of running tips - midfoot running drills, picking up the cadence, etc.

    About the actual comment - unless you are hosting the marathon olympic trials, you want to get the highest number of people to enter your race as possible. So that means likely having the race cutoff be as slow as legally possible to include as many runners as possible. A good example is the Lululemon CEO basically saying that fat people shouldn't buy his clothes - he is excluding likely half his market or something. That guy is a complete idiot, and he shouldn't be able to talk to the press ever again.

  19. Bout time I beat you at Words With Friends. Wait, this is happening more frequently, you failed to mention that to anyone!

    So, out of all this talk, someone left a 9 min mile comment on Michael's blog. HEY NOW, that's my territory!! They said the cut off should be 9. Why nine? Don't pick on me and my nine's. My hip flexors and knees love 9's. I hope I learn how to run in the 8's soon. I would hate to never be able to run again :(

    In a slow conumdrum,


  20. Also, Catching Fire movie was awesome overall. I liked it about the same as the book, just a little bit less than the 1st movie and book. And yea Jennifer Lawrence is my favorite actress by far right now. She is just hilarious in her press conferences and speeches, never taking herself too seriously.

  21. What I hate about stuffy runner attitudes such as this is that they miss the point: Many of us run for the sheer joy of running. Times aren't that important. We race to challenge ourselves, to push our limits. I always feel a bit sorry for runners who concentrate too seriously on times and races. It's like: Dudes! Throw your watch in the drawer, get out on the trails and run your heart out.
    My sister finished her first marathon two minutes past the cut-off time. She hurt her back at mile 16 and spent almost an hour in the medical tent with bad spasms. She was advised to quit, twice. Instead, she got up, swallowed a few non-aspirins and got back in the race. She was in last place at the time but kept running. She never slowed to a walk. She began passing people, too, and finished strong. Her back hurt the whole way.
    There are amazing stories out there in the middle and the back of the pack, where many race for a cause or in memory of someone, not just for a PR or the glory of an age-group place. To me, that is the mark of a true runner.
    Nice post, Jim.

  22. I read that post and then found your blog because if your response. I love what you wrote here. I'm so sick of these pseudo elite runners. Their experience of racing is affected by their insecurity & puss poo attitude, not the participation of slower runners. My only beef with slower runners are those who line up in the front of a race when and make faster runners run around them. Otherwise, who cares who wants to line up for a race?

  23. Jim - This is possibly your best post ever, and that is saying a lot because every one of them are entertaining. I am trying to speed up, believe me. But you have to crawl before you walk; walk before you run. This guy is a coach? Really? I would much rather have running50after40 as MY coach.

  24. The guys at the front are only there because the slower ones are at the back. Lets face it they're only gonna get older and slower or injured. Good things come to those that wait. :-)


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