Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Danger Danger!

While it's always cool to see others sharing an interest in what you enjoy doing, I'm glad that there's some press about running marathons not being for everyone.

My favourite line from the article is that "marathons... can also be grueling, unpleasant events, especially if you're new to the sport." I've done five of these things and every one was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life (I can't really even comprehend ultras). Attempting to run 26.2 miles is not something you should attempt because it's trendy or just for charity. I mean, I'm thrilled that more and more people are into the sport but to quote Alyssa, "exclusivity = awesomeness" and I think it kind of takes some of the mystique away from the race if people out there claim to have "run" a marathon when they finish in like 6hrs. Seriously, 4mph is a leisurely walk. That's what neighborhood 5k's are for.

I like that fact that you have to "qualify" for the National Marathon and think more races should adopt a similar standard, for safety reasons if nothing else.

So- am I wrong? Am I just an asshole? Should the grandaddy of all track and field events be an all-comers attraction, or something that requires some talent and hard work? Am I delusional from debugging embedded fixed-point math all day and need to get back to work?


Meg said...

Nope, you're not being an asshole. I think anyone who seriously trains for a full marathon will agree with you- it's not for everyone and it shouldn't be taken lightly.

Ben said...

Zero - with all due respect, running is the only sport where people get so bunged up about who wants to participate. do you think that a pro baseball player would care about rec leagues having harder "standards" because he doesn't want some fat dude who drinks beer between innings to consider himself a "baseball" player? Plus, I don't think any 6 hour marathoner would claim that they accomplished the same thing as someone who completed the same distance in half the time.

Look - our country is full of obese people who don't walk around the block - much less 26.2 miles. As long as people understand the risks - more power to them.

There are still opportunities for "exclusivity" in running - (i.e. Boston) and hey - the fact that all those out of shape people run marathons just make us look more impressive ; )

///MM said...

I'm all for expanding participation, and even more for anti-obesity, people just gotta respect the distance. I thought about your baseball reference as I was writing and decided that there are "beer leagues" for softball and competitive leagues and usually to get into the competitive leagues you've got to prove yourself/ sometimes even try out. My analogy is a double edged sword, however, in that when people get overly competitive/aggressive in the beer leagues then THEY are the ones being a@@holes. So, if a sub-16 5k talks smack while "winning" a friendly diabetes run/walk then they're just as out of place.
Woo Boston. That course kicks my butt.

Funnyrunner said...

hmmm. I dunno. I feel like, as a runner, I love the whole comaraderie of being a runner, and I'm happy whenever someone else gets sucked into my sport. As someone above pointed out, there's a big difference between being a BQ marathoner (I'm 4 minutes short... dammit!) and a 6-hour marathoner... but the thing is, people know where they are in the runner's hierarchy. Training for a marathon at any level, it's hard to disagree, takes planning, willpower, dedication, and goal setting... it makes us all better human beings... (cue mushy background music). There are those folks out there (for example, my husband...) who hate DRIVING 26.2 miles much less run them... so we will always be special, we runners.

alyssa said...

It's hard to take sides on this one, especially when I did in fact coin the idea that "exclusivity = awesomeness".

However, that being said, the article does raise a good point about safety. Races do pay for the police, insurance, road closures, etc for a certain amount of hours, and the runners that cannot make it in that time frame do pose a safety threat as well as liability options. In ultras, the fields are small enough that you can enforce time cutoffs - if someone doesn't get to an aid station by whatever time, they are put into a race vehicle and transported back to the start. That would be pretty unrealistic in a large marathon.

It would be cool if there was more of a balance. Maybe some marathons can keep the 6+ hour time limit, and those can be the "charity" events. Right or wrong, there is obviously a big enough demand for those events to be in the sport, and they are for a good cause. Plus, I would argue that we all have a mother/brother/father/sister/niche who falls into that category, and it would be nice to see them find their own spot in the running community.

Other races, like Boston, should steer clear of those charity entries (they make enough off our $120 anyway to give some dollars to a causes). That way we still could uphold some exclusivity.

alyssa said...

PS - I have no idea why I typed the word "niche" instead of "friend" in my above comment.

RM said...

I'm more concerned with Zero's use of the English spelling of "favourite" and his labels of "dental, guacamole and scooters" Are you high or something?

I don't really care because those people don't bother me during a race. Let's be honest, if someone were to die during a race of the people we are friends with, it's going to be me - not because I'm not trained for it but because I know no limits. I'm a no limit soldier.

I think for safety reasons there are some valid points to making people qualify, but who are we to decide who is good enough to put on shoes and run? Who are we better than?

At the same time I think race directors are doing the responsible thing because how many times do we see races try and blow up with attendance, making an unsafe and terrible experience for everyone. Personally I don't want to do a race with 65,000 people and finish in the top 200. They are fixated on reaching a number or a record and making money.

Running is about running. When people scream out "run Forrest run" I like to think of that great scene in the fantastic film and think of what he started. I know it's fake, but I like the idea of creating a movement, similar to what we've created here. You MFers would be shit without Fed Hill, or Jim's store. We'd all be running on our own. And some of us sucked balls pretty hard when we first came out.

So I certainly don't mind if someone does a 6 hour marathon - shoot, I'll probably go 6 hours off the bike at IM. Does that make me unworthy to do it?

fbg said...

I'm going to agree with Elf on this one, and also refer to what Alyssa said about safety and all that. A wise man once said:

It's not a problem until it becomes a problem.

When I said that, I meant that, unless you already have a specific, factual reason why something is bad, then there's not much of a reason to argue about whether it's bad or not.

Practically, that means that each race gets to decide their best course of action. Some cities can afford to have the course open for seven hours, some only for five. That's their business. The races themselves need to decide what is best for them based on permits, costs, participation, and goals.

For me, the only adverse affect of having lots of "slow" runners in races is that I usually skip the awards ceremony. I've run four road races (two 5k, two HM) in Austria in the last two years and haven't been to a single awards presentation. (I got 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 4th.) It's just not worth sticking around if I'm not getting cash. I would have skipped out on my second place marathon award, too, if a friend of mine didn't run 5:xx.

And I guess that's the price the organizers pay, too. They get their slow runners, but don't get a photo op with me on the podium. It makes you wonder why they still do it.

fbg said...

Oh yeah, and it sounds like some people are arguing something like, "If we let fat people run marathons, people are going to start thinking marathons are easy."


I felt a lot worse during and after Cherry Blossom, and a few of my college 8k races than I did during the one marathon I ran. But, in that marathon I had the luxury of shutting it down in the second half.

A race is a race; I decide how much pain I want to tolerate today, regardless of distance.

Some of these people who run marathons are about as well-prepared as I am for something like, say, Western States. I'd probably make it to the finish as long as I walked the whole way and carried picnic lunch and dinner on my back. That might be kind of fun. That would automatically make me as cool as Alyssa.

alyssa said...

are you saying you're going to come to WS and walk behind me with snacks??

bc that would be awes.

Ben said...

"the article does raise a good point about safety" - so says the girl running a 100 mile race on trails over mountains in a few weeks.

Rebs said...

Running has evolved; it's for everybody now. Get over it. Alot of people do it, some better than others. If people that are ridiculously slow do it, that's awesome.

I honestly used to think I was better than the people who finish light years behind me, but I don't anymore. This fantabulous sport encourages people with all different skill levels to come together to do something bigger. Success is relative and there's nothing cooler than watching someone put in the time to reach a goal and then attain that goal- even if they are slow and fat :)

RM said...

I love fat chicks.

Also Alyssa just told her parents that she's doing WS and they told her NO.

There is an element to danger and inherent unsafety in that race.

We're talking it up...on the Barry Gibbs talk show

alyssa said...

Oh the most recent update on my parents.

They have stopped saying "no" and are now saying "we do not endorse what you are trying to do here."

Collin said...

I have to agree on this one... People running marathons in 6 hours should not be running marathons. The amount of slow runners stealing spaces in races has started to irritate me recently. My PR is a 2:52:55, but the St George Marathon has an equal opportunity lottery that allows runners going less than half my pace to get my spot. I didn't even get in despite 70% or so of applicants getting a spot, so I'm kind of pissed. Now I have to run and win some joe-shmoe marathon next weekend if I want to get a spot in the race via the 30-30 entry method (if I can win one of 30 races, I'll get in). Chances are good I'll win based on past results, but I shouldn't have to do this; I should be given the spot over a 6-hour marathoner. I don't want to sound like a dick (ok actually I don't care at all), but I worked a lot harder to get to where I am than a 6-hour marathoner and I think I deserve to get a spot in the race over them. On a semi-related note, I don't know if any of you read the Anton Krupicka interview in which he quoted that many ultrarunners "are woefully underprepared for an undertaking as daunting as a 100-mile run," but it's really quite true. I really have no business doing races beyond 100k at this point and that's why I'm not pushing to do a bunch of 100s like I had considered doing this summer. I don't train like Anton does (180 per week average) so I'm going to do one just for fun, but I'm not going to clog up the system and take spots from people who actually legitimately deserve them. In the same way, I should expect people not ready for marathons to not hog all the races away from good runners.

fbg said...

It sounds like the organizers of that marathon have made the conscious decision to make their event No Runner Left Behind. (which might as well be a group run to the local donut shop)

Is there a particular reason why you want to do this marathon and not another, one that supports racing?

RM said...

But, did you work harder than someone to get to a 6 hour marathon? Not to put you down, but you aren't qualified to make that statement.

While in general we (me included) are elitists and take pride in being competitive, the livelihood of the sport doesn't depend on us. It depends on the recreational people, the ones who spend the money, do the races.

When we were at Boston I saw tons of people with little handwritten shirts and stuff saying what horrible thing they've survived (one apparently had SARS). Some people want to be out there to pay tribute to someone else, or overcome an organ transplant or maybe an amputation. Who are we to say they don't "legitimately" deserve to be there.

And you won't know how much harder it is to be competitive until you have a setback like that. We take it for granted. There are so many people who become runners later in life. No athletic background, just want to start running. A marathon is the pinnacle of what they can achieve.

Rules are rules, and if you've got to go out and win a race, go out and fucking win it. Don't talk about it, be about it. If I want to qualify for Hawaii (ever) I know exactly what I've got to do.

So don't put down slower people, we're all runners, isn't that what matters?

Ben said...

Collin - I pretty much walked my way to a 2:52 in March - if my PR was that slow I'd cry myself to sleep every night.

The truth is that running is very individual - in that we are all going after different goals and it's rediculous for any of us to make value judgements on what the sport should be to anyone else.

Obviously I'm kidding you about crying myself to sleep - but, I'm trying to make a point. We wouldn't want anyone to not take our goals seriously just because they happen to be faster than us.

I've never heard anyone who I considered to be truly elite to talk smack about back of the pack runners. They usually have more important things to worry about - like winning.

alyssa said...

I agree with Ryan that no one can say they worked harder. Running more miles doesn't mean you work harder. It really doesn't mean anything, actually, except that you ran more miles.

alyssa said...

Oh and also word on the street is that Anton Krupicka is hurt and isn't even racing at WS if he decides to run at all. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say maybe it was bc he does run 180 miles a week?

Andy G said...

I ran a marathon relay the other day. I was 20 minutes late to the start and I caught up to the slow pokes before the first mile. From there it was a matter of weaving through a bunch of walkers and joggers. I couldn't imagine being out there for 6 hours, and I don't understand it either. I was carrying a big-ass inflatable monkey on my back and every single person I passed made a comment about it... you aren't running hard enough if you are yelling some stupid comment at me. I don't really know where this is going, but I definitely agree that marathons aren't for everyone.

Collin said...

Ben, give me 2 more years of good training and I'll be under your PR. :) I never really trained right until about 2 years ago, so I have a long way to come still. You've been at this a lot longer than I have. Even still though, I'd give you a higher precedence than me in any race since you're faster than I am. To answer whoever asked about it, I want to run St George because it's one of the fastest courses in the country, which will be a nice change from my last few marathons. Also, I totally respect people that are running marathons in 6 hours after having some medical problem, but the fact remains that most of the people running that kind of time are just running that kind of time because they don't try.

Collin said...

Alyssa, Anton might not be running WS because he doesn't think he's had enough time since being injured. For him, he doesn't think he's in shape unless he's going to win. He got injured doing weeks as high as 250 and decided to cut back to 180, which his track record shows he can handle. I personally couldn't handle anywhere near that much, but there's a reason why he hasn't lost a race since he started running ultras.

RM said...

WOW, he opens his mouth AGAIN at an inopportune time. Because, as Collin will undoubtedly find out the hard way, he has now issued a challenge. Not so much to Ben, but for the rest of us to call him out for opening his mouth. Ben has a marathon PR now of 2:32 in only his 4th marathon. I fully anticipate Ben going under 2:30 by Chicago 2010. You have until May 7, 2011 to prove your theorem, otherwise I will personally consider your running career an epic failure. I would even be willing to spot you to 2:35 if you would care to retract marginally.

"the fact remains that most of the people running that kind of time are just running that kind of time because they don't try."

And again, this is a pretty broad statement. Some people just suck at things. Do you think I completed my half Ironman in 6h47m last year because I didn't try? That time blows dick. There weren't but a couple hundred people behind me out of a 2000 person race. I'd like to think that I "try" harder than most given the mix of workouts and the level of dedication I put in. Just because right now running takes a pretty high priority in your life, next to wearing girls' jeans and playing video games until 3am, doesn't mean that every person out there has the same ability to dedicate most of their day to running.

These comments are not intended to put you down or make fun of you in anyway. They are intended to wake you up. It's real world time now and while it's fine to have opinions, and certainly here, amongst an elite/elitist group of athletes it's okay - but the world is big and in your new home I doubt you will make many compadres by voicing these opinions too loudly. It's time to start worrying about what you do, not what everyone else does.

Collin said...

Haha, yeah, I talk a lot, but that's fine. By the end of 2011, I'll be low 2:30s, just wait and see. :) I've dropped my marathon an hour in 2 years, I think 20 minutes more in another 2 should be doable.

Collin said...

BTW, don't think I'm a huge douche. I'm only screwing around with Ben. I'm sure I'll at least be under 2:40 within 2 years, but 2:32 is very fast and I respect that time quite a bit. I'm just talking trash because he trash-talked me first. haha...

Andy G said...

Are some feelings getting hurt?