Friday, January 13, 2012

Do Slow Runners Have the Right to Do a Marathon?

In the course of reading disparaging, and in my view, false, comments about Team in Training being a scam, I found plenty of negative comments about slow runners. For the most part, these were directed towards Team in Training participants specifically, as well as some about slow runners in general. Themes included: slow runners and walkers get in the way of real runners, they cheapen the experience for real runners, they are tubby, they gum up the works for everyone else, any one who takes five, six, seven, or even eight hours to complete a marathon does not deserve the medal... Need I go on?

Well despite my claim that I will set a world record marathon some day, I am one of those terrible and unworthy slow runners. Even more egregious, I do a good bit of walking along the way. So I feel obligated to make some comments about people's intolerance and superiority complex, which I feel is held by a relatively small set of runners - but too many of them, judging from all the runners' board comments.

Let me start with the obvious. Unless you can turn in a 2:30 marathon, or maybe 2:45 if you are female, I don't think you have the right to criticize someone else for being slow. Slowness is relative. I have a great admiration for people who can complete a marathon in three or four hours, but not if they dump all over others who cannot. Then I just think of them as being conceited and arrogant. Sure, I wouldn't be able to keep up with them in a run, but I wouldn't want to run with them anyway.

I particularly love the many comments about all the slow runners and TNT runners clogging the race course and ruining the experience for the real runners. We all get assigned a corral based on our likely finishing time. The faster you are, the closer to the front of the start of the race you are. Hey, fast runner, why did you decide to run in the rearward corrals with all of us slow runners who clog the race? That wasn't so bright, was it? Or maybe this is it - maybe all of us slow runners run our ass off until we can get in front of you, then we slow down to clog up the race course and make your life miserable. Come on, man!!!! We slow runners clog the race for you? Really???

Now as far as calling people tubby and criticizing them for being out in a race, unless your body mass index is 22, what gives you the right to call someone else tubby? First of all, a person's weight is their business. Second, in some ways, they have more guts and grit than the 3 hour lean marathoner. Try carrying an extra 40 pounds and not only running a long race, but going non-stop for seven or eight hours. I wouldn't want to do that. I also resent the many implications I saw talking about the "TNT tubbies," as if most Team in Training people are fat, lazy slobs who didn't care about their fitness level or the race. It's ridiculous.

Races can always weed out slower runners by setting a time limit. So, suppose a big city put on a marathon with a 3.5 hour time limit? It sure wouldn't be a big field, would it, maybe a few thousand people. How much do you think the fee would be? How many spectators would be out there cheering for you? Do you think that the thousands of spectators that line a typical marathon course came out just to see you? If so, you are well beyond being conceited. Hell no, they come out to cheer their daughter, their husband, their Aunt Martha, their dad, their wife. Along the way, they cheer for others, including you. So be glad that their slow Uncle Willie is huffing and puffing along five miles behind you, because otherwise there would be hardly anyone there cheering for you.

People participate in marathons for all kinds of reasons. For a very elite few, it is to win first place. Compared to them, all of the rest of us are slow. So for the rest of us, the slowest runners and walkers included, we are not going to win the race. But within ourselves and what we are capable of, we are going to achieve a victory all the same. If it makes you feel more secure to criticize those who are slower than you and consider them as unworthy to be in the race, go ahead. We'll be too far behind you to hear you, and all we care about is finishing the race and crossing that finish line within our own capabilities. Maybe we will even set a personal record. Yeah, it might be slower than the best you can do, but that is why it is called a "PR."


Elayne said...

Wow, I have never heard those types of comments made about slower runners or TNT and am glad I haven't.That is incredibly sad that all runners would not support anyone who has the guts to get out there and try!

ahpage said...

I have more respect for slower runners than I do the "elite" runners. It takes much more endurance to run a 7 hour marathon than it does a 3 hour marathon. I ran my first marathon in November and it took me just over 7 hours. I trained my butt off for 10 months. I just simply cannot run fast. It doesn't mean that I didn't train. I probably trained harder than the "elite" runners. Whether you finish in 3 or 7 hours, you deserve the medal and the T-Shirt. One day those "elite" runners might be at the back of the pack. Let's see how they feel then. I ran the marathon to prove to myself that I could do it. At least I had the guts to get out there and try.

Racn4acure said...

Elayne - yeah, it's crazy isn't it? People should just be respectful and supportive of others.

Ahpage - thanks for the comment. Congratulations on becoming a marathoner. That is wonderful. No matter whether it takes some 2 or 8 hours, they are still a marathoner. No one can ever take that away from you.