Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fun in the Slow Lane, Fast Lane, Any Lane!

After reading numerous posts on Theoden's Blog and other links on his Facebook page relating to slow marathon run/walkers, I decided to research the topic a little more. I found a great New York Times Article from the Times Topic on running. You should definitely bookmark the Times Topic on your browser because it constantly updates with any articles they write on, well, running.

Much of what I have read focuses on two main things:

(1) People in the back of the pack are getting in the way of the faster runners
(2) "Plodders" get to see things that people up front would tend to miss because they are supposedly blazing by everything unnoticed.

These articles also seem to pick at the "fast" runners, assuming that we are all the ones saying plodders are getting in our way. I would like to reject this assumption. Plodders don't get in my way; instead, they inspire me. In fact, I know that the person who is running 6 minute miles and the person who is running 10 minute miles in the marathon, or whatever race, are all feeling the same pain. After all, we are all running the same race, with the same distance, and the same weather conditions. I have never heard someone win a huge race and tell the media or their friends "Wow, that didn't hurt at all." Instead, their energy stores are just as depleted as the honorable woman who finishes third from last to raise $12,839 towards the cure for Breast Cancer.

While running the Army 10 Miler Race, I ran by several soldiers who had lost a leg in the line of duty. Yet, here they were, running 10 miles with a prosthetic leg. Quite possibly one of the most humbling moments and inspiring races of my life, I realized as I passed the first amputee finisher minutes before the finish, that if he can run 10 miles missing one leg, then anything truly is possible. Technically, these men could be considered slower runners, but really, they were people going out there to enjoy what every person in America is free to do: run. By doing so, they were inspiring so many other runners, including the ones that they beat.

Yes, I will admit that at the Army 10 Miler, Matt and I had to dodge around several 10 minute pace runners in the first mile, but it didn't slow us down. In fact, it gave me something to focus on and made the first mile really seem like an obstacle course, which definitely put some spice into the race strategy. When it comes down to it, if there are not corrals based on pace, then why should I get a closer pick to the starting line? We all are going to finish at some point or another, and I'll have nine miles to make up for the five seconds I had to slow down to dodge a runner or two.

For the second claim, that the faster runners tend to miss out on their surrounding, this is not always entirely true. I assert that there are moments when every runner of any pace sometimes just takes moments to focus solely on themselves. Suddenly, you don't hear any people cheering, or the wind gusting at your back. All that is left is your breathing and the pit-pat of your feet as they rhythmically hit the pavement. At that moment, every runner is not aware of anything but that. Once we snap out of that momentary lapse, suddenly everything comes back, louder, bigger, and more real than ever. For instance, while running the Outer Banks Half Marathon, I was alone practically the entire race. Sure, I focused on my race strategy by my mind wandered.

As I went into the runner's mentalsphere, each time I came back to reality and my observations churned: the crowd is louder than ever...man, that was nice of that family to come out and watch us from their porch so early in the morning...am I on a golf course right now?....oh, that building is beautiful and, gosh, the ocean sure does look pretty, i really should just jump off this bridge right now to swim with the fishies....okay, focus on the hill or did I just see a man in a Pirate costume?...the cops never cheer for runners when they block traffic...wow, there are more people cheering at the finish this year than last year!

And then they all stopped when I crossed the finish line. Perhaps if I had been running slower I would have observed some more, but I do believe that there are two parts to running a race: the personal, introspective part and the outward, observatory part. Can't all runners participate in both pieces? While the elite runner may be observant of the other super fast professional around them, and the slow runner is observant of the cityscape, isn't it all the same?

Finally, do not forget that all fast runners will someday be slow, so we'll come back to you....Aaron, I am hoping that old age will get to you and that I will beat you eventually. Watch out.


Matt said...

are you the "honorable woman" third from last with $12,839 ?

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