For the record, my first marathon finish at Air Force in 2006 was 6:01. I have been a ‘back of the packer’ since then with all seven of my marathon finishes being over 5 hours. The year I had the best training I still finished in 5:19. I am a reasonably healthy, younger adult, so I realize I should be improving (or could be) upon that finish time.
Recently, the Columbus Marathon made the decision to change their cutoff time for the marathon race from 7 hours to 6 hours, thereby essentially eliminating walkers, and slower runners, from the race. Other changes were made to the race, but this one change alone has seemed to stir the pot a bit.
There are (understandably) some very upset people who feel dedicated and supportive of their hometown race that can no longer participate due to the changes. I can empathize with that. But the more worrisome issue is the nastiness that has arisen from this. This grumpiness is not one sided. It comes from both the turtles and the hares.
When determining whether or not to participate in a race, I certainly look at the course closing time. I have never been angry, or upset by one that has a faster cutoff time, I just choose not to participate. In fact, this year, I was registered for the Revel Rockies race which has a course closing time of 5:40 because they can’t stop traffic from using the roads. As a slower runner, I knew that there was a very real chance that I would be pulled from the course, but it was a challenge that I wanted to take on. Sadly, altitude sickness prevented me from participating, so I never got to see if the wagon would pick me up or not J
Ultimately race directors have to make decisions and work within certain parameters. They do their best to put on an event that is inclusive and welcoming to as many people as possible, but the fact of the matter is they have a business to run.
What DOES NOT need to happen is the plethora of negativity that has erupted as a result of these changes. Pardon my French, but there is enough terrible sh*t going on in the world and running ain’t one of these problems. To be a little tongue in cheek, this is what I like to call a #firstworldproblem. But, in all reality that makes it appear as if I don’t understand and empathize, when that is truly not the case.
As someone who has been at the back of the pack for most of her running career, I can assure you that the nastiness from faster runners is very real. When I first started I have had some people be very rude and demeaning to me because of my pace- I have had to learn to let that go. I have ALSO had to learn that not everyone who is fast is going to be mean and negative, when in fact so many of them are exceptionally encouraging and inspire me to be my best running self. Some of them are dear friends.
I tend to lean on the side of being more inclusive when it comes to running events. The fact of the matter is there is an obesity problem in this country. Sure, there are people who are perhaps a little out of their element and running distances that are a little ahead of their skill level, but they will figure that out for themselves. I don’t think that is the majority. I like to believe that most of the folks who are participating in a marathon (even if they are one and done) are people that simply want to challenge themselves to be the best version of themselves. They want to be a part of a community of people that value fitness and good health and camaraderie.
In the 10+ years I have been running and competing (mostly participating) in races, I have run the gamut of paces. At my fastest I could run 8:30 minute miles through a 10k and at my slowest I was trotting at 13.
Running is truly an individual journey, in the end we could all do a little better to be kinder. Not just with each other, but with ourselves.
Keep plodding (or racing) along my friends.