I'm nowhere near being able to call myself a runner beyond the most Amateur Hour of senses. I've entered and finished three races- two 5Ks and one just under 5 miles, none in times that were either really good or totally embarrassing- and I've spent a full day away from home to cheer on friends at another back in my old home town. While the race day experiences were all fun, I'm getting acquainted with the Race Organizer Mentality, and I have to say, I'm not fond of it. It's a combination of inflexibility, flakiness, and, for lack of a better term, hubris. At least, these are dispensed in quantities that I think are in excess of what they should be relative to what they provide.
Which is not insignificant, but, then, neither is the effort the runners themselves are putting in. The race itself basically gives you (a) a course, (b) some nominal crowd control, mainly at the start and finish, (c) a number, and increasingly, some kind of technochip to keep track of it during the race and at its end, (d) a stinkin' t-shirt, basically paid for by the sponsor ads on the back, (e) a record of your time and pace, and (f) an after party which may include water, carbs or even beer. For this privilege, the going rate for 5Ks seems to be between 25 and 40 bucks, the almost 5-mile Turkey Trot about that as well. Longer and more prestigious races run quite a bit more, and not really proportional to the added distances in most cases, although most of them do (and most 5K's don't) include a medal or some other meaningful talisman of the effort. Basically, it's Because They Can.
On two occasions, I've attempted late registration for races that I missed the cutoff for. Both turned me down flat. I'd understand that more if it was just a matter of capacity, but they could address that issue easily enough by either implementing a standby system where you could take the place of a no-show runner, say, 15 minutes before the gun (and I have ALWAYS seen tons of un-picked-up packets on the morning of all three races I've been in), or by allowing the no-shows to switch themselves out with latecomers. Neither of the events I checked with allowed the former, and I've seen race rules that are even nastier about people who try the latter, disqualifying the doppleganger (after the fact if necessary), and sanctioning the no-showing runner from entering future events. The NYC Marathon people have a rule concerning entry fees which, if I tried on a client, would lead to my disbarment in a Personal Record time:
Once you have entered a race, your entry fees are non-exchangeable, non-transferable, and non-refundable, under any and all circumstances, including, but not limited to, cancellation of the event or of your participation, or change in the date, nature, or format of the event.
So yeah, even if we call it off, or turn it into a 26-mile series of rings around the Brill Building, tough toenails. (More likely, blistered ones.)
With all that nonrefundable money, you'd think the events would be well organized for both runners and cheering onlookers. My brief experience in both capacities has been to the contrary. I've had one event called off less than two weeks before its scheduled date, and then reinstated a week after that- under new management that did, but contractually didn't have to, honor the fees paid to the prior organizers. The one I attended as a spectator suffered from horrible setup- no directions to the parking outside the boundaries of the major highways used for the event, and with portapotties that had the most minimal (and quickly depleted) amount of supplies for those in need of such things. Race veterans explained that BYOTP is one of the most important rules of these things.
Yet there are others- and other, unwritten ones, that get into the land of hubris. Such as this one, which a friend posted a link to the other day:
There’s no question that music can be a powerful motivator when we run. The beats of a favorite track can keep us going when we want to stop, or help us kick into high gear near the end of a hard run. Striking the ground in sync with a song’s rhythm can elicit bursts of endorphins in the brain, giving us that wonderful feeling known, appropriately, as the “runner’s high.”
But wait. Consider a race environment: hundreds, if not thousands, of people moving through a city park, down narrow streets, or on tight paths just a few feet wide. In those situations, headphones pose a significant safety hazard. What’s more, they can cost a lead runner the win.
Here’s why: When you’re wearing headphones, you often hear just one thing — the music. You don’t hear the people around you or those approaching from behind. On a single-loop or straight-path course, this can lead to runners colliding with one another because they’re deaf to the sounds of footsteps and breathing that might have kept them moving in a straight line.
On a multi-loop course, people in the front of the pack are often weaving through the back of the pack after they finish their first loop. This requires careful maneuvering and the ability to communicate with other runners — “Coming through!” or “On your right!” If a runner does not hear someone approach from behind, they might make a move to obstruct that runner’s path, or else fail to move out of they way when the approaching runner announces they’re coming. In close races, this can mean the difference between a win and second place. More universally, it can cost any runner a new PR.
This is why we strongly discourage headphones in our races, and in some cases, even forbid them. It’s not to deprive the runners of that infectious, motivating power of music, but simply to ensure a safe environment for everyone in a given race — from the lead runner to the last one across the finish line. We sincerely appreciate your cooperation.
Or we will disqualify you, is the unspoken threat. Sorry, but I find it the height of elite athete snobbery to expect the 99 percent to be asked to adjust their own routines for the sake of the two or three hypercompetitive runners who may lose a fraction of a second because some shlub's in their way while they're lapping you. Those other 99 percent are paying for far more of the crowd control, the publicity, yes, even the beer if there is some, than you are. The elite already get the hoi poloi out of their way at the beginning of each race by the staggering of starters into areas by estimated finish time- they're referred to as "corrals," by the way, as if we were cattle awaiting slaughter- and it would be simple enough to give them a side lane to keep those fatties and sissies out of their way. Fatties and sissies like me. Instead, they propose to solve the problem by taking something away from the many so the few can shout their way through with impunity.
And that, to me, sounds like a race to the bottom.
This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/105843.html
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