As a runner I take pride in hearing and reading about fabulous things that happen in this sport. I started subscribing to running magazines, watching races on tv and locally and reading random articles online about running. The majority of the time, I love reading these new ways to better myself for various reasons. On the flip side, there are times when I want to punch people in the face for being so narrow minded about this sport.
What am I talking about? This: On September 19, 2013 this article was published on The Wall Street Journal page: The Slowest Generation. (All excerpts from this article are italicized in this post)
Read up then see if you share my thoughts on the article. Upon my first read I was appalled. First that someone could be so narrow minded and second that the author, Kevin Helliker, was totally missing the point of sportsmanship. As you all know, I had my fill of people who found the need to make fun of slow runners recently. I found a lot of support, some of it even being from the elite!
Ryan Lamppa, spokesman for Running USA, an industry-funded research group. While noting the health benefits that endurance racing confers regardless of pace, Lamppa—a 54-year-old competitive runner—said, “Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and it’s good enough just to finish.”
What Kevin and Ryan Lamppa don’t understand is that for slow runners like me, it is a blessing to be able to run. I would like both of them to try running after five knee surgeries, through asthma and through a heart condition. Then, I’ll ask them whether they think they deserve a medal for running for almost three hours during a half marathon and trying their damn hardest. I don’t feel entitled to a medal at the end of a race. I am of the belief that half marathons and marathons are hard as shit and they require a lot of training. Perhaps the finishers are all winners for taking the chance, that is why I accept my finishers medal with pride, knowing that I couldn’t have done any more to train and run my hardest for that race. I would assume that they don’t think I earned my marathon medal either. I finished after the course had ‘officially’ closed, maybe I didn’t earn it. Sure, my six-plus hour run would embarrass the hell out of most runners, but I display that medal proudly and look at it every single day and think of how awesome a feeling it was to cross that finish line.
A lot of people go through their training, trying to find the best way to fuel and trying to better their time with speed work and tempo runs. Me? I just run. No tempo, no speed, it all comes across as one thing – running. And I would like to add that fueling during a run, for the slow runner, is an entirely different ballgame that the fueling needs of a ‘regular’ runner. If the average runner finishes a marathon in four hours, think about running another two hours on top of that, find the stamina and energy to run that much more. Running for six hours may sound incredible to some and it may sound like a pathetic joke to the rest, either way, fueling and energy levels are HUGE things to consider at that point. Very few runners understand that while people like me may be slow, we are trying JUST as hard as you are!
Next they start to dig on fun runs, like the Color Run.
Perhaps the fastest-growing endurance event in the country, the Color Run, doesn’t time participants or post results. “Less about your 10-minute mile and more about having the time of your life, The Color Run is a five-kilometer, un-timed race,” says its website….That idea sounds downright un-American to Joe Desena, founder of the rival Spartan Race obstacle-course series. His competitors are timed and their results posted, with many aspiring to earn a slot in the Spartan World Championship this weekend. Likening to communism events that promote “hand-holding over competition,” Desena said, “How well is that everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality working in our schools?”
This race is not my thing at all, don’t want to do one, haven’t done one. But I’ll never knock it or the people who run it. So what if they don’t post your time? Does that make it any less challenging or fun? If I consider a half marathon fun, should they not post my finishing time? I don’t believe that every kid deserves a trophy for playing kindergarten soccer for one season, and I don’t like that kids think that everybody wins all the time. Kids do need to learn that at times there are clear winners and clear losers. My husband and I don’t ‘let’ our kids win anything. They have to earn it just like the rest of us, but if someone gives my son a finishers medal for running his very first 1K I’m not going to scoff at it and call it unearned. If my daughter earns a finishers medal for her Girls on the Run 5k’s should I point out that everyone got one and take away from the 10+ weeks of training that she completed to get to this point? No. No, I’ll never tear them down like that. They train, they give up their time, they give up so much as kids to follow a dream. For my kids, it is to be the best runners they can be. I’ll never made them feel inferior for that, just because everyone was rewarded for working their ass off.
“I wasn’t thrilled,” said Reilly, a sports agent in Boulder, Colo., adding that “races are turning into parades.”
This statement doesn’t take into account that at least people are moving, they are off of their butts, they are trying to better themselves! So what if runners are slower than they were 10 or 20 years ago? Does that make those of us who run now sad and pathetic? Does that mean that we should all quit and call ourselves failures because we have fun runs and may run slower that others do? Should I tell my friends who do mud runs that it isn’t a real run so they shouldn’t do it and I’ll look down on them? Hell no.
I think that everyone has their own hurdles to overcome, especially when it comes to running. Look at me, I run, on average, 12:30 minute miles, and I am PROUD of it! I CAN run, I GET to run. The best point of this post is that what Kevin and his article’s contributors don’t realize is that not everyone thinks the way they do about running and runners. My local marathon, a medium sized Boston-qualifier, chose ME to be its very first race Ambassador! Me, a slow runner! What were they thinking! I’ll tell you what they were thinking…they were thinking that not everyone is elite. Not everyone can run a seven minute mile. Not everyone had a runner’s body with lean muscles and that, at times, the most motivational thing is seeing someone ‘just like you’ complete something that you never thought you could. I hope that I can inspire people like me, the slow, those with illness or medical conditions, to get up and get moving. It doesn’t have to be for a marathon or even a half marathon, but getting off of the couch is a success in itself.
Hell, I’d even give them a medal for it.