Distance running is wonderful sport in part because the races are so egalitarian: the back-of-the-packers are literally competing in the same event as the world champions. You pay your fee, enter the race and run – albeit usually far, far behind – the elite runners. But it’s worth chewing over the idea that with the exception of huge marquee races like the Boston Marathon, nobody cares who wins, what records were set, what the best course times are, etc.
We care instead whether we ran a PR (personal record) or PB (personal best) for my friends from the UK.
In one sense, it’s a pleasant notion – I enter these races to compete against myself, in a community of people doing the same thing. It’s all about being a self-motivated individual in community; and who can dislike that? Except this is a race, man. Look left, look right – those people are your competitors. Let’s have a bit of both, community and competition.
By adding some of the depth of context involved in being not just a participant in a race, but a fan of running, the sport – and our own race experiences – can be enhanced. Win win.
Which brings me to the main thing that struck me at the last race I ran - the Market Square 10K in Portsmouth last month. My friend John Stanzel won the second place age group award (50-59) for his 39:21 run through Portsmouth. Great run. My wife Kristen and I stuck around for the awards.
Take a minute and watch the video.
Why the laughs? It’s just funny that despite what I’d heard was a record turnout for this race, the awards ceremony is … umm… intimate.
One thousand eight hundred and ninety eight people finished the race and the only a dozen or so people cared enough to see the awards ceremony. I’m not pointing fingers here – I wouldn’t have stuck around if John hadn’t been collecting an award. And I have to be honest, I didn’t recall the name of the guy who won.
But I think I would have appreciated the whole event more if I knew some of the details of the top-end competition. And in an era where mega races sell out as soon as they are announced, where it seems like almost everyone is a “runner” – why aren’t the champions among us – those folks who win the races we all enter and run together so communally, local celebrities?
We bring our kids to get autographs of minor league baseball players after a game; what would the winners make of it if we had the family hang around at the end of the next race we run, and we asked them to sign our race numbers?
(By the way – Andrew Huebner won the race. He’s 26 years old, from Portsmouth. His time was 30:31. Holy smokes. You guys know what that means? He was averaging 4:55 per mile for 6.2 miles on a course with its share of climbs – not a fast flat one, that’s for sure. Now maybe this doesn’t quite put him in striking distance of the 26:17.53 Olympic record set by Kenenisa Bekele in 2005, but it’s damn fast nevertheless. To put it in perspective, next time you’re at a workout with the local track club, try and hit 4:55 pace – just for a quarter mile. That means get yourself around the track in 1:13. You may be able to – it’s not outrageous. But then think about doing it 25 times or so. Yeah, Andrew’s pretty fast. And didn’t that little dip into the stats add some cool context to your own 10K experience?)