I read this article yesterday about slow runners (penguins, ha!) and whether they should be allowed in marathons.
If you saw my open letter from a couple days ago -- which I have since taken down because it served its purpose and I can now let it go -- other than a fear that I really suck as a human being and everybody just humors me, I wonder if part of all that was that I'm not a fast runner. I ran with these people several times but never literally. There weren't all that much faster than I was, but enough so that I couldn't keep up past the first mile. It didn't bother me in the slightest; I find it easier to push myself when I'm running solo, and for me the whole meet up was (a) for safety and (b) for the post-run brunches. But because I'm somewhat certain I don't 100% suck as a person, I wonder if it would have turned out differently if only I could have kept up.
Some people believe that if you don't give it your all every time, why bother running at all? A lot of these believe that if you're not running something like a seven minute mile, you should get off the road. My local running community calls these folks "fastholes." Now, to be a fasthole doesn't mean that you are a fast runner. It means that not only do you believe that everyone should be fast but that you look down upon those who are slow. So, from what I've heard Prefontaine would be fine with me and he would not be a fasthole. Because what gets me is that the fastholes think that I'm running slow simply for the fun of it. That obviously I can't be giving it my all because if I were I'd be faster.
To that I say, have you noticed the 30 lbs or so of breast I've got going on? Funny thing, I've never seen a female fasthole with any sort of chest. Duct (ha!) tape a couple of cantaloupes firmly to your chest and do a 10K and then we'll talk. I really don't see any built like a brick shithouse (what is up with that saying??) female fastholes either. They're all like thoroughbreds. Well, fine, but a Clydesdale is still a horse and they're prettier and they get shot for broken legs a lot less often. So there. I also say, I am running as fast as I can. So double there.
There were a few comments to this article that really resonated with me. One was about how we're still running -- okay, maybe not running but still completing -- the same 26.2 miles. I'd go a step further and point out that we've also done all of the same training mileage. I just used up more of my weekends doing it. It also reminds me of how Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, just backwards and in high heels.
Another was about how under a fasthole's mentality, only A and B students should be allowed in the classroom. Which made me think about how I've done the same work as a graduate of Harvard Law, passed the same damn bar exam and all that, and we've got exactly the same degree. With which, and $4.50, will get you a cup of coffee. And a malpractice suit.
What I really don't get is how my 6:26 marathon time detracts from someone else's 3:26 marathon time. It's not being graded on a curve. I don't get a handicap so that I could end up placing ahead of them. No matter what, they're still three hours faster and they should be damn proud of their time. Of course, if they kick penguins like me out of their races, suddenly their place of 50/200 could be in danger of becoming more like 180/200. Makes them sound a little bit less elite, doesn't it?
I do believe that slow runners should exhibit the appropriate running and race etiquette. Line up towards the back of the pack for the starting line, between the mid-pack runners and the walkers. Do keep to the far right or far left of the road, as appropriate, so that you can be safely passed by those faster than you. If a race has a cutoff time and you believe you will be unable to make that cutoff time, reconsider signing up. Be polite and supportive as you pass up those injured fastholes.
In return, those blessed with the gift of speed should work on recognizing how much harder it is for those who are slow. Again, we're generally not slower than dirt just for the fun of it. Maybe we're just new, or maybe we're injured, or maybe we're just not ever going to be fast. But we give our all in making it across the finish line and we're often giving it for twice as long. In return, perhaps you could cheer us across the finish line as you chow down on the last of the bagels or the bananas? Or, better yet, leave some for the rest of us. We need it at least as much as you do.
Someone has to come in last. Wouldn't you rather it were me?