Are you a Sandbagger?

wades star

A friend of ours posted this to FB recently and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing as Keith and I had just had a conversation about all of this that we see and hear….

The term, SANDBAGGING is defined as; hiding the strength, skill or difficulty of something or someone early in an engagement.

Heading to run a race in Chattanooga next weekend. A friend who is also running and who i know has been training hard texts me this yesterday.

“October running did not go as planned. Upchuck will be hard on me. Maybe being well rested I can pull out a surprise.”

Of course this is complete bullshit on his part but it got me thinking about all the sandbagging we do. (me being the worst offender) My favorite is, “I’m just using it as a training run.” or “I just hope I finish.” [Another friends] is “I’ve been feeling a cold coming on” or “I haven’t done any miles.” He runs more than anybody I know and always has miraculous recovery just before the race.

All my favorites are not working anymore. People have figured out my bullshit. What”s you favorite. I need to freshen up my repertoire.

So, obviously this post is very tongue-in-cheek but it’s also so spot on!  As runners, we hear people sandbagging constantly.  As Keith and I lined up for our most recent race, I heard the proverbial “I haven’t been running much” and “oh, i hope i can just finish” from several people as they then acted like they had been shot out of a cannon at the sound “GO!”.  We all know that person who says he never runs but we see his tweets and he somehow managed to “not run” over 30 miles that week.  We know that person that no matter what race he is running, he’s “not prepared” or “wishes he had actually trained”…again, knowing this person trained his ass off.

Why do people do this?  Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of what we can’t do.  Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of what we can do.  Maybe we’re just afraid to let ourselves down….or, better yet, maybe we just like to shock the competition…you know, the person standing next to you who is also sandbagging!  Maybe it’s just because this is what athletes do.

Although I think this is just one of those things we do and I can laugh it off when I hear it (or maybe when I’ve done it and didn’t even realize I was doing it!), but the kind of sandbagging that frustrates me as a coach is the kind in which, by definition, “you deliberately perform at a lower level than you are capable of”.  It’s not unusual to see this when we have tough workouts but also when setting goals.  When I give the “goal setting run speech” in which people are told their training paces and goal depends upon this one run, I have some people every season who will sandbag.  Why?  Because they like the comfort of having a 100% attainable goal whereas a 80% attainable goal might make them nervous or might make them feel like they’ve failed if they didn’t get it.  If i know I can run a 2:15 but I’m not sure I can run a 2:00, I’ll run slower so I can get the 2:15 goal, right?  No, sandbagger!

Wouldn’t you rather get close to the toughest goal possible than achieve the easy one?  Wouldn’t you rather work your tail off and miss your 400’s by a smidgen than not even try to get there (because your stomach hurts, of course 😉 ).  Wouldn’t you rather tow the line at a race knowing how ready you are than stand there filling your head and everyone else’s with excuses?  Yes, you would!

From here forward, no more sandbagging.  Deal?

2 thoughts on “Are you a Sandbagger?

  1. I can’t stand this stuff. Even if someone didn’t train and they go out and smoke people, they are inadvertently offending those who may have trained. I would prefer it if people kept their times to themselves and just ran. If you toe the line at a race, then you are racing. If you didn’t train, then it’s on you but no one cares what you did up to that point, they only care about that race so you better go get it. If I see someone who is “supposedly faster than me” with a time slower than mine in a race, I beat that person in that race. I don’t try to find an excuse, (they paced a friend, they didn’t train, blah blah). It was a race and that is all. Train or don’t train but be ready to race when the horn blows….no excuses.

  2. This is a good one! I personally like to sometimes think that I’m not racing, until I actually start running and decide in the middle of it that I am actually it’s very tough to put on a bib and NOT race. BUT there are times like Girls on the Run 5K, that it is just better to chill out and hang with your kids than try and bust your butt to win.

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