As far as people watching goes, race day is one of the few things that rivals a trip to Walmart. There are so many different types of runners, it’s an endless parade of entertainment!
With the good, we also must take the bad. In running as in real life, we sometimes encounter people who are absolute tools.
Are you one of these? If so, knock it the <bleep> off. You’re not making any friends.
We’ve all seen them: Runners who wear a finisher’s shirt from an ultramarathon or Ironman triathlon to a 5K.
Apparently, we’re supposed to be impressed that someone of such high and lofty status is gracing a meager little distance. Bonus tool-itude points if they’re wearing compression to a short-distance race, or if they brag about the shorter race being their “cooldown” from their intense workout earlier that morning.
Don’t Be a Tool:
When I first started running, one of my mentors told me something very, very important about race-day wear: Never dress more than one step up from your event. If you’re running a 5K, don’t wear a finisher’s shirt advertising anything more than a 10K. For 10K, the cut-off is a half-marathon. Catch my drift?
Someone recently told me about a guy who runs marathons while live-streaming the experience through Skype, Twitter, iPhone cameras…I had to jump online immediately to find out more!
Now, dear reader…I’m not one to judge people based on the first time I see them, but when this man’s picture popped up on my computer screen, I instantly labeled him the King of the Tools and wished I could dump a bucket of water over his head.
For something as beautifully simple as running, lately I’ve been seeing an influx of technology during races. People stop in the middle of the pack to take pictures of themselves with their digital cameras to upload on Facebook later. They type up a quick message on their Blackberry at mile 16, because the Twitterverse needs to know how much “my legs feel lk 2 tree trnks. LOL.” Even during my Ironman, I passed an athlete who was walking and talking on his cell phone. During the race.
Don’t be a Tool:
Sure, we’re a wired society. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
Running is a great thing — your body is accomplishing something amazing! Rather than be distracted by all your technology, soak in the experience of your race. Stopping in the middle of a race to take a photo or shoot off a text is not only distracting you from the true race experience, it’s dangerous to the runners behind you who are moving forward when you’re -ahem- not. During your race, delegate the photo-taking-Twitter-updating role to one of your spectathletes.
This past December, after two years of trying, I finally achieved my goal of a sub-2-hour half-marathon. Race after race, I was turning in 2:01 and 2:02 times, so to finally get a 1:58 PR was amazing! Nothing could have made me upset. Nothing!
Until the next day.
I was talking with a fellow runner who asked me how the race went. My chest swelling with pride, I gave him my 1:58 time.
“Really?” he asked.
I smiled. “Bet you didn’t think I was capable of it, huh?”
He scratched his head in confusion. With absolute seriousness, he clarified: “Huh. I guess I thought since you did the triathlon and Ironman stuff that you’d actually be, like, faster.”
I think he then proceeded to tell me all about how his first half-marathon (when he was 300 pounds and just starting out as a runner) was actually a 1:50, but I’m not sure. I couldn’t hear much of what he was saying over the sound of my deflating ego.
Don’t be a Tool:
Whether someone’s a 3-hour or 6-hour marathoner, they’re still a marathoner. Whether someone runs a 5K in 18 minutes or 40 minutes, they’re still a runner. You are not allowed to ask “Hey, how’d your race go?” as a way to open the door to brag about yourself. Let them have the spotlight! Give ’em a high five, smile, and shut up. It’s their moment.
Bandits are building up bad, bad, BAD running karma.
These racers, who participate in the race without paying for it, are stealing. There’s no way to sugarcoat it…it’s theft, pure and simple. Sure, it may seem harmless — the race is already crowded, so what’s one more person? The water’s already there, so who’s going to miss just one cup?
When you bandit, though, you’re taking away from those who have paid for the experience. The people who have signed up for the race have paid for the barricades and police to block off the road, the supplies at the aid station, insurance for the event, and the support in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the race.
Don’t Be a Tool:
If you want to race, pay for it. If you just want to run, then run somewhere else. If you seriously think you’re justified because you can bandit because no one will know, just remember the definition of the word “integrity” — it’s doing the right thing when no one is looking.
Penance for Tool-itude:
If you’re guilty of the above crimes, all is not lost. You can absolve yourself if you promise to change your ways. Just say ten “Scott Jureks,” and leave a bowl of chia seeds on the altar of the Endurance Gods. See you at the races!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susan Lacke enjoys a good avocado. When she isn’t writing for No Meat Athlete, she’s spewing the gospel of running and triathlon for Competitor Magazine and its sister website, Competitor.com. If you see her, please approach slowly and use caution — she’s been known to head-butt when she feels threatened. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke