Slow Runners Not Allowed

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This article, http://www.modernghana.com/sports/245330/2/plodders-have-a-place-but-is-it-in-a-marathon.html,  was posted by a friend yesterday on Fabebook and has sparked some interesting conversation.

Should slower runners be allowed to run the marathon?  Should there be cut-off times in a marathon?  Should you still be considered a marathoner if you walked some of the race?

I find myself on top of the fence, rather than on either side.  I believe whole-heartedly in the run / walk during a marathon or longer event and do not find that this discounts you as a runner.  The interesting thing about the run / walk is that it provides you the ability to go the distance without quite as much fatigue and muscle breakdown and, what most people don’t realize, it also provides you the “right” to go faster during the run portions.  There are plenty of people who qualify for Boston every year using the run / walk method….so, if they can qualify for Boston, they’re definitely amongst the esteemed runners but, oh no, what a dilemma this would cause in the eyes of the “purist”.  Your time is your time, however you choose to get there.

The guy in the article that says “more than half of the people at a marathon are just overweight and ‘trying to get a shirt and medal … looking to one day tell a story about the saga and the suffering of their 11 minute pace ‘race.’ “….hmmm, what to even say about this.  I had 2 immediate thoughts when reading that: 1) he’s a total asshole and 2) he’s kind of right about the “reason” some people sign up for marathons.

I believe that the marathon is a race that is unlike all others and I’m often amazed at the flippant attitude some people give it, either in their training or their race or both.  This does irritate me but kind of in a way that I feel sorry for that person.  With each of my marathons, I have felt a serious sense of pride and accomplishment when I crossed the finish line.  This isn’t because I’m fast though.  It’s because I respect the race.  I respect the training.  I know what a sacrifice it is to train for a marathon and above.  I believe that you have to decide to run a marathon because you want it, you need it and absolutely not because it’s on your friends bucket list or because you like the medal.  I do agree that it is this general shift in runners that have taken some of the accomplishment and importance out of the race.

In regards to his 11 minute mile comment though, give me a break.  If you are running a marathon and a 6 minute mile puts you in the “i’m working for this goal” zone or a 13 minute mile puts you in the “i’m working for this goal” zone, you are still racing YOUR race.  Maybe you cannot physically run a 9 minute mile marathon but an 11 minute mile IS a run for you.  Then that is YOUR race and nobody else’s.  I don’t see how anyone can discount this.  The way I see this, thank God we don’t all run the same pace.  How boring would that be.

Now, on to the part in the article where the author states that some people in the Honolulu marathon stop for lunch along the way.  This is absurd!  I do believe that this is disrespectful to the race, the race organizers, your training, and yourself.  I can hardly even speak to this, I find it so annoying.  Stop and give kisses to your supporters, take walk breaks, do whatever you need to do but don’t stop for lunch!

I do think cut-offs are actually a good idea.  Now, of course, the question is then posed as to what the cut-offs should be.  The 6 minute milers would obviously want a different cut-off from what the 13 minute milers would want but I think the race directors could make the right decisions in regards to this.  I have run several races with cut-off times and I never felt pressured by the cut-off but it did force me to think, “i need to train, i need to work hard, i need to take this seriously”, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

This entire article makes me think of myself in my last race, a 32 mile race on a hilly and rocky terrain.  There were cut-offs so I knew going in what the cut-offs were.  I trained my ass off.  I was prepared and never was a cut-off an issue.  This wasn’t because I’m fast though.  It’s because it was a cut-off to keep people from getting out there and getting themselves in trouble.  Fortunately, I was trained and not having issues so it wasn’t a problem.  In regards to my pace, yes, there were plenty of people faster than me that may have even thought I didn’t “deserve” to be there but I know that I did.  I trained hard and raced hard.  I also stopped and took some funny pictures a few times (this took off a whopping minute or so each time) but I took every step of that race seriously and respected every ounce of it in my training and my racing.  Does it mean that I didn’t belong since half the field ran it faster than me?  I don’t think so.

As a running coach, I have coached people across the marathon finish line anywhere from 3:30 to 6:30 and you can bet I cheered for all of these people just the same!  As long as you are out there and you are trying, you deserve to be there.  Who’s to say that the 6:30 marathoner didn’t work just as hard as the 3:30 marathoner?  It’s all relative based on each individual person.  I believe that everyone should experience the marathon at some point in their life time but as in everything, you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it so get out there, train hard, and do your best!  You can bet that if you do that, you deserve to be there and I’ll be your biggest cheerleader, no matter the time it takes.

Nationals

Keith was invited to participate in the USAT Olympic Nationals this year in Milwaukee.  He qualified at the Memphis in May Olympic tri which is a competitive race so we were super excited when he got the invite a few days later!  I thought I’d write a post from my perspective and maybe I’ll be able to talk him into writing a blog of his own.  (hint, hint)

After months of waiting, we finally arrived in Milwaukee last Thursday.  We checked into our hotel, grabbed lunch, and went down to the race site which was already buzzing with people getting checked in.  Keith got his race numbers and went to retrieve his bike which he had shipped about 10 days prior.  We then walked through the expo where we ran into Chrissie Wellington in the TYR booth!  She is amazing and if you don’t know who she is, you should!  She’s one of the few female athletes that I think can inspire all genders, all shapes, all sizes, and all levels of people.

(Here’s a quick pic of Chrissie and Keith)

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We ate a great meal, checked out Jazz in the Park, and headed to the hotel fairly early.  I got up early on Friday to get my long run done.  It was really fun to just walk right out of the hotel and head down to Lake Michigan to run.  What an amazing view.  I wish I could see the sunrise on every morning run over a great body of water.  There weren’t a ton of people out yet so it was a very peaceful run.  Keith hopped on his bike to check out the course and come check on me….on the way, he passed Chrissie Wellington who happened to be getting a run in as well.  I think we were texting each other the same “ah, Chrissie is running by you!” texts at the same time.  She passed me and smiled as large as always.  I hated that I didn’t turn around and try to run with her….of course, knowing that I canNOT run with her because she’s way, way faster but why not try, right? I decided that if I saw her again, I would do my best.  Several more miles went by and I never saw her.  I was headed up a big hill and here she comes, down the hill, on the other side of the street!!  Like any good stalker would, I turned around and sprinted down the hill while crossing 4 lanes of traffic and a median just to get to her sidewalk, all while trying to seem very cool and laid back but probably running my fastest 1/2 mile ever, and here she came up behind me!  We said our “hey, good run!” hello’s as she flew past me as if I were going backwards.  That’s ok.  I can still say I ran with Chrissie 😉 I think Keith was more excited about my little brush with her than I was.

We went back to the expo that afternoon and got Keith’s bike checked into transition (required that day) and scoped out the course a bit more.  I have never seen such a large transition area, even at Ironman Louisville! There were people everywhere and you could really feel the excitement building!  We had an early dinner, went back to the hotel, and tucked in for the night.

Saturday morning we were up by 5 AM.  We were a few blocks from the race start which made it super easy to get everything to the race site.  It was fairly chilly out (high 50’s/low 60’s) which is definitely much cooler than we are accustomed to for a triathlon but actually quite nice.  Keith got everything placed in transition and we found a spot on Lake Michigan to just sit and take in the organized chaos.

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The race started at 7:30 and Keith was in the first wave.  The swim started in Lake Michigan (64 degree water temp) so they allowed them in the water about 7:10 to start warming up.  He didn’t want to spend too much time in the water before the 7:30 start so he waited until about 7:20 to jump in.

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Off I went to find my perch along the water and wait for the start.  7:30 came and went and they didn’t start the wave.  We could see about 300 bobbing heads in the water waiting to get started.  By about 7:35, we started hearing a lot of yelling coming from the water…the annoyance was setting in with the M40-44 year olds!  7:40, still no swimming and no explanation to the thousands of spectators.  We knew they must be getting cold after 20+ minutes in the water, not swimming, and tired from treading water.  Suddenly, at about 7:45, we could see them pulling the athletes out of the water and as quickly as they were out, they were called to get back in.  Chaos!  7:47, the race was finally underway.

Keith had a good swim.  It was kind of an out and back swim course with the exit up this crazy steep ramp.  I know this exit wasn’t fun for the athletes but it was pretty entertaining for the spectators.  It was so steep, people were face planting trying to get up and then once it got good and wet (the astro-turf), the 2 volunteers that were supposed to help hoist people out of the water, were having a hard time keeping their footing so they kept falling.  Keith somehow managed to get up the ramp without a lot of drama, unlike another guy we know who was very unfortunate as he broke his big toe on the ramp while exiting!  On to the transition……………………………yep, that pause is to try to give you an idea of how freaking far they had to go to even get into the T1 and then a good ways to go to get through the 3200 bikes (oh, they made an announcement that morning that they estimated between $15 and $20 million dollars in bikes in transition!).  Out he came and on to the bike course he went.

(not Keith in the pic below but an idea of the swim exit.  i managed to only get the sky when he exited 😉 )

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I was lucky enough to get down to the pass-by spot on the course before the first athlete came through.  Oh my goodness, talk about chaos!  There was a bump in the road which quickly became “THE bump” and somehow it was somewhat invisible but packed a serious punch.  The first 10 guys that came through lost water bottles as they flew over THE bump.  Around then, the volunteers figured out they needed to start screaming “BUMP” as the cyclists neared.  This worked for some who managed to bunny hop the bump and didn’t work so well for others who lost control.  I saw one guy totally lose control, went through the cones, straight into the oncoming SAG truck, where he ended up wrapping himself around the rearview mirror to get stopped.  Very scary moment for all of us watching it unfold.  (he was shaken up but ok)

I saw Keith coming in the distance so I ran down towards him and as he approached me with a huge smile on his face, all i could do was scream “BUUUUUMP” like a crazy person.  It worked though.  He bunny hopped it and managed to hang on to all of his bottles (which are prone to flying out!).  On to the interstate he went.  Yep, the bike course went up the interstate ramp, onto the interstate, and back down.  Standing in the same spot, I witnessed a good bit of carnage as people came down the off ramp towards transition.  The worst was seeing a guy hit a small pothole (the roads were a bit of a mess) and fly over his handlebars while doing about 3 somersaults before stopping.  Needless to say, that poor guys race was over for the day but fortunately for him, his bike and body weren’t anything more than really scraped up.

You can imagine my anxiety as I waited on Keith to come down that hill.  Fortunately, they were sending volunteers up the hill to warn them of the rough road heading back to transition so he had been warned and came down at a safe speed.  He zipped by and headed quickly in and out of transition.

I managed to catch him at 2 different spots on the run which was fun.  It’s always so fun if you’re at a spectator-friendly race!  They exited transition and ran about a 2 miles along Lake Michigan before heading out onto the road.

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After seeing him the second time, I headed off to the finish line area.  It was a ton of fun with about a million people, fun music, dogs, perfect weather, and amazing athletes.  I couldn’t get on the finish line fence but I did manage to climb up on a bench to get some pictures and see him cross the finish line!  YAY!

(believe it or not, he’s somewhere in the finish chute in the picture below)

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What a great race!  Keith was not as pleased with his race as he would have liked…said it wasn’t really his best day “but it’s days like that where you learn the most”.  Although not thrilled with his performance (nothing in particular, just said he felt “off” all day), he was a gracious finisher, as always.  It was a pretty amazing day.  I was in awe from beginning to end.  It’s pretty cool to go to a race that is filled with such incredible athletes…just to see the determination on their faces all day made me really think about how hard they all worked to get there and how each and every one of them deserved that grand stage to finish out the season.

We hung out for a bit to cheer on other competitors and just take in the scene.  It felt and looked more like a festival…maybe with a race thrown in!

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Way to go, Keith!!  I’m proud of you 🙂