Proud to Be "Lowering the Bar"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Yesterday, I read something that really pissed me off.  It was an article written by Juliet Macur for the New York Times back in October 2009 entitled “Plodders Have a Place, but is it in a Marathon”.  Apparently there are some runners and race organizers out there who feel slower runners (like fans and followers of John “the Penguin” Bingham) have ruined the sport of racing.  I started writing this post immediately after reading the article but have since calmed down a bit and am now just annoyed by what I read. To be fair, the article was written four years ago and maybe attitudes at the top of the running pack have changed.  I've also read other articles along the same vein and not everyone at the elite level, or race organizers, feel the same way but one particular quote from the article really burned my britches.

“It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours,” said Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984. “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’ ”

As a newbie, slower than snot, runner, I take some offense at this statement and some of the other views expressed by elite runners in the article.  Saying that if I were to ever take part in a Marathon it would "lower the bar" diminishes any and all effort that I have put in to be able to get to that starting line.  I understand that elite runners and top athletes work for years to be able to run marathons as fast as possible, setting records and winning prizes.  I have the utmost respect for athletes and anyone who is able to complete a marathon.

Comments like that of Ms. Wald make me feel unwelcome.  My comparatively pathetic attempts at running should not be included in the same race as the world's top, elite runners. Those who, like me, plod along happily at our glacier like pace should stick to fun runs and charity races.  No hope for placing in the top three? Please don't bother registering.  Your attempts are pointless.

Well, I have news for the Adrienne Wald's of the world.  I don't care about winning.  I'm not there to compete with the likes of you who can probably run a full marathon, shower, eat brunch and start in on a good book in the time it would take me to complete a half. That's great! Congratulations.  I'm there to have fun, to prove to myself and others that all the negative comments I've received over my lifetime aren't true, to say I've done it, and yes, to get my medal and the free t-shirt.  So what?

Having me struggling at the back of the pack does not diminish what you have/will accomplish. Yes, we might both end up with the same medal but you can proudly tell people that you not only completed a  marathon but that you did so in under 3 hours (I don't know how fast she might actually run, this is just for demonstration purposes).  There's nothing shabby about that.  Me? Sure, someday I might be able to say I completed a marathon, perhaps even the same one as you, and I will proudly declare my time to anyone who will listen.  I don't care if I finish in four hours or I finish in 7.  To me, I only care about finishing.

My motivation for future races is different from yours and you know what?  That's ok.  I know that I will never be a top runner and that's just fine.  Its not my goal to win anything.  Not everyone can come in first.  I'm happy just to take part alongside a multitude of other people who's experience and skill is as varied and diverse as there are water molecules in the ocean.  For me, its about the experience.  If you want to race as fast as you can with the hopes of possibly beating thousands of others taking part in the same race, go for it.  I hope you do well.  But do not belittle or berate me for admiring and envying your skills and ability and wanting to feel special for being able to race alongside (or more likely far behind) you.

Ok, rant over.


justmeandmo said...

Do you remember that song by the Partridge Family? "I think I love you?" That is how I am feeling about you right now! My dear YOU ARE FIERCE! And I would like to reblog this post for my Fierce Friday - Are you cool with that?

Karen said...

OMG! Are you kidding? Of course! I would love that. I don't know why but that article really chapped my hide. I'm not normally this confident but this new found interest in running has really helped me believe in myself.

Karen Seal said...

Those comments are awful and incredibly untrue. Not EVERYONE can say, "I've run a Marathon", even though the sport is becoming more and more popular. I think it's still an amazing accomplishment!

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