Tuesday, April 03, 2007

degrading

Lately, there has been quite a discussion out there about how people like me are "degrading" the sport of running. It seems that "elite" runners are offended by people who run a five hour marathon. That what we do somehow makes running a marathon mean less. I've read this statement on a couple of blogs, and in fact, there was actually a long article on this published not too long ago on Slate http://www.slate.com/id/2149867

It offended me.

I have quite a lot to say about the idea that slow runners are degrading the marathon. In no other sport can I think of athletes complaining because there is increased public participation. I'm convinced that people who feel that way aren't truly elite runners. Does Tiger Woods think that the sport of golf is being degraded by my dad (who while a lovely person is not a lovely golfer) playing on the same course? Does anyone in the NBA think that pick up games on a street corner make their games mean less? Of course not. Slow marathoners don't hurt sub-two and a half hour marathoners at all. The achievement is just as great. Instead, the people who are hurt are the sort of fast marathoners. Just being able to run a marathon today isn't quite as impressive because more people know that they can do it. Does this mean that they shouldn't be able to do it?

Next, I get angry because those people assume that runners like me don't put in the training. No, we just don't have the natural ability to be as fast. I actually may spend MORE time on my training than a runner who could do the half marathon in just over an hour. My long runs take a LONG time. Running for me is a commitment. I can't pound out 8 miles in an hour, nope, I've got to plan on that taking almost two. Claiming that we have degraded running because we don't push ourselves as hard (which some people do) fails to acknowledge that people who aren't innately gifted will be slower no matter how hard they push themselves.

Finally, is there anything wrong with just being a recreational runner? I really can't think of any other sport where better athletes are offended by people doing something for their health or just for the love of the sport. What I do has no bearing on how you should feel about running. Instead of making the sport better by pushing people out, naysayers like that guy on slate are actually HURTING the sport. They make it less accessible to the public and make runners appear to be elitists who don't want to play nice or make new friends.

The sport of running has changed and is changing. Slowness doesn't make the sport worse. While I would agree that the number of elite runners might have declined as the masses were joining, this doesn't mean that the influx on non-elites caused the result. Correlation does not equal causation - didn't they learn this basic rule of statistics? Elite runners are recruited into other sports - basketball, football, field hockey, soccer - that a lot of people enjoy more than running just for the sake of running. I personally believe this might be more of a cause than additional public participation. People like team activities - it makes them feel like more than they are individually. And, running ultimately is an individual activity. Even in a race or while running with friends, your true competition is yourself.

Alright, enough of a rant for today.

Weight: 159 (officially ww weight - I'm trying something different this week - the Core plan. All this running makes me hungry all the time).
Miles: 2ish yesterday, none today.

3 comments:

Cathy said...

Just read the article and now *I'm* all hopping mad about it. You're absolutely right. What damned difference does it make if people are out there "just to finish" - which has been my goal from the first footfall. No great times, no sprints, no tape-breaking.. Just finish.

Jackass purists.

Run on, slow runners, run on.

Elisabeth said...

Awesome post, Megan!

I'm joining you slow runners in my first 5K this summer! Training starts in late April!

Heather said...

I think part of it stems from the fact that your dad is never going to play with Tiger Woods... where we can run the same marathon as an elite! :-) However, I have read some quotes by REAL elites (olympians and stuff) where they say they really respect the slower runners for being out there for so long... there is more to running than being the fastest--there is the joy of it, being outside, the running community, which is AMAZING!! (as long as slower runners know their running etiquette... as in: don't just stop in the middle of the road, move over so no one runs into you, etc.... the sport is the PERFECT sport for everyone to do together!!) keep running girl!