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.

One thought on “Slow Runners Not Allowed

  1. Well said coach. As long as there are 2 people in a race, there will be a first half and second half so people need to tread lightly…there is always someone faster and you may soon find yourself in that second half…then you’re not so badass. I do agree that cutoffs are a legitimate way to try and mandate “respect” but there are plenty of “fast” runners that don’t respect the distance or their own abilities. Lunch = Gels!!!!

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