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Too Slow To Race?

It took me a long time to call myself a runner.  I am grateful that I have supportive parents, friends, teammates and all of you that make me feel validated no matter how slow or fast I run.  But it is articles like this one that bring to the surface all my insecurities.  Who is anyone to say, that because I sometimes walk in a race, that I am not truly a racer?  Or that I don’t deserve my medal?  Or worse of all, that I should not take pride in myself because I don’t fit the standard “fast” pace? 

And really…what is fast?  I feel like fast is personal to each runner.  I mean, clearly Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall are fast and the Kenyans are super fast but do they necessarily set the standard?  And if they don’t, who does?  Is it fair to pass judgement on anyone who doesn’t run at a certain pace?  One commenter said that an 11-minute race pace was too slow- but for some people 11-minutes is fast.  Just because someone finishes with an 11-minute pace, doesn’t mean they didn’t run.  And so what if they did stop and walk?  That makes then unworthy of the medal??  Really?? 

To say that running a marathon is only worth something if you are as fast as Adrienne Wald thinks you should be, is absurd.  Julia Given says she doesn’t acknowledge those who finish a marathon in over six hours as runners.  Well Julia, I would venture to say there are runners out there who think your 4:05 finish time is slow.  I mean a 9:22 pace…is that fast???   Who is to say you aren’t “disrespecting the distance” along with the rest of us slow runners?

The line that really put me over the edge was the quoted statement made by slowtwitch commenter Record10Carbon that asserted, “more than half of the people at a marathon are just overweight and looking for a for a shirt” and goes on to say they only do it so they can later “tell the saga of their suffering.”   I have so many issues with this statement, I hardly know where to begin.   As if it isn’t bad enough to say slow people don’t deserve to enter races, now this person wants to put a weight limit on it as well?  REALLY????  And did this person really just suggest that someone would run (or run/walk or just walk) 26.2 miles  for a t-shirt?  And did this person also assume that those who are not overweight don’t suffer during a race?  And in a society that struggles daily with obesity, do we really want to dissuade people who are overweight from being active?

As John Bingham asks, “What is wrong with promoting the activity of running to entire generations of people ” regardless of pace, weight or finish time?  How long before they want a height limit?  Don’t get me wrong…I understand the need for a cut-off time due to budgets and I think stopping to eat lunch is a little ridiculous…but if race directors were to listen to this “no slow runners allowed” garbage, they would be biting the hand that feeds them.  If races limited their entries to only those who could keep to a specific pace, or worse to those who fit in a certain weight category, the directors (and the charities that benefit) would take a serious financial hit. 

Two years ago reading this article may have discouraged me from entering a race.  But now I look at an article like this and it fuels me.  So, people might think my 11-minute pace is slow.  Hell, they might think a 9-minute pace is slow.  For those of you who may think that there is a place for you…it is called Boston.  You want to run with all the fast kids, go there.  But I am going to continue to enter and RUN every race my heart desires and I am going to do it at MY pace!  And on top of that…I am going to wear my t-shirt and medal with all the pride in the world!   


Readers: please share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree, I would love the hear them.

21 thoughts on “Too Slow To Race?

  1. Thanks for sharing the link! I have always been someone who encourages others to run, no matter their pace, so I think this article is pretty ridiculous. Especially some of the quotes you mentioned! If they start limiting the finish times, it will go back to a more elite sport, which is a shame, because running is something that a lot of people could enjoy and share! It just sounds like the faster people don’t want the slower people around. That’s too bad. Where’s the sense of community?

  2. Thanks for sharing the link!

    Everyone who isn’t an elite runner knows they aren’t an elite runner. They know they aren’t competing in the same class.

    If you want to try and hold a marathon which only caters to the elite, feel free. Good luck finding enough entrants to fund it.

    The mystique of the marathon is very much alive and well. Hell, among non-athletes, the mystique of the 5K is alive and well. We don’t need to make running less accessible.

    I personally love the variety of event types out there. There are fundraising races, there are competitive races, there are community races. There’s room for all kinds. The only person you have to impress with your result is yourself — if you need to compete against a smaller crowd to do that, I don’t know what to say.

  3. Wow. Thanks for sharing. That article pissed me off. I feel it shld be more about getting out there and doing it then the time it takes. These people shld be looking at how many more people are doing them and be happy more are taking part in this event that promotes health.

    The media loves taking a negative spin on something positive and it’s a shame there are ignorant people out there willing to provide quotes for this. They just made themselves look and sound ridiculous.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with the previous comments…I was just reading “no need for speed” by John Bingham and have been thinking about these things myself. I think there are alot of areas in life where we let “elite” people tell us where the measure of success lies… leaving the rest of us “underachievers” to dictate our abilities,accomplishments and happiness based on someone else! Where would some of these “elite” altletes be without the genetics that predispose them to such great feats!? I’m sure that many of them work hard, but how many take credit for genetics that they had no control over?

  5. It is articles like this that keep people chained to their couches afraid to even TRY because they know that they cant keep up with the people who are “In Shape.” Give me a STINKIN break!! There is enough room on the road for ALL of us and we all finish together regardless of the time our shoes hit the mat. UGH!!!

    FYI you won the little warmer thingies… And I have another Giveaway.. Email me your address 🙂

  6. The article made some very good points, but I think it also failed to address others. Essentially it boiled down to an attitude against slow runners, which really defeats the purpose of open discourse on the subject.

  7. I saw this article a few days ago and it infuriated me. Not too long ago, there weren’t nearly as many marathons as there are now. People would have to travel quite a distance to race. Now runners of all paces can run in a marathon closer to home because of the growing popularity of the marathon. Think of all the charity teams that train for marathons and raise thousands and thousands of dollars for a good cause. I’d bet that a majority of them are not what Given would consider a fast runner. If all those people didn’t train and fundraise, charities would suffer.

    At the core of it all, though, is that people aren’t wanting what’s best for each other and themselves by saying not everyone deserves to run in a marathon. Peoples lives are changed for the better when they set a goal like run a marathon, train for it, and accomplish it. Why take that away? The elite athletes start the race way before the slower runners do anyway, so as long as most people start in the corral they’re supposed to, why does it matter? Their egos are damaged because when they tell people they ran a marathon it doesn’t get the impressed reaction it once did.

  8. Great post girl! I hate when people put down another person’s achievements like this. Every person is different and fast is only defined by what one is capable of.

  9. This article is crap! Articles like these are what discourage people from trying something new and challenging! Who cares if you are considered a slow runner, everyone has to start somewhere! Did Kara Goucer or Ryan Hall start out running 5 minute miles, no! This is something they worked towards. I give credit to the people who ARE overweight and still run 26.2 miles to accomplish something not just to get a T-shirt, that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!

    The point is these “slow runners” wake up every morning and lace their running shoes the same way you and I do, they cover the same mileage in training for a marathon that I would, so how about we praise these individuals for their hardwork and dedication, not degrade or minimize their courage and determination.

  10. I’ve read the article and my blood boiled!

    I’m a slow runner and I’m proud of it because there are millions of people out there who don’t do what I do.

    I write on this Dutch women’s forum and after my 10K which I finished in 1.19 someone (who is extremely fanatic in running and runs marathons) said that she wouldn’t have started if she knew she was going to finish in such a slow time.
    I was furious: how could she judge me. I’ve trained my ass of for 6 months to do this and I was so proud when I crossed the finished line. What a b*tch, she could have written the article.

    But I have to say that I won’t participate in another 10K run unless I can run it in 1.15 or less because finishing almost last just isn’t fun.

  11. Fran- in my first ever 8k, I was third from last. In my first Tri, I was also third from last. They were both tough pills to swallow but I kept it up and have made so much progress. Don’t let YOU get YOU down…or anyone else!!! If you want to run another 10k…GO FOR IT!!!

  12. I read this same article over the weekend and was appalled. Especially that Julia Given would dare pass judgement considering she falls into an average runner bucket, in my opinion.

    There is enough room for everyone in the sport of running. And when it comes to marathoning, I respect the distance. 26.2 miles is a huge accomplishment, no matter how long it takes you to master it.

    I have often tried to define that being a runner means…and what it comes down to, for me, is what is in your head and heart.

  13. Un-freakin-real. I got about half way down that first page of the NYT article and was disgusted. Who is to say who is a runner and who is not? Isn’t some of the beauty of running that just about anyone can do it and just about anyone can get better with some work?

    As a slower runner myself I know I am giving my all in each race. There are people faster than me and people slower but I give my all and work towards my goals. People who feel my slower pace should not be in a race are complete snobs.

  14. Perfectly stated. The fact that someone would cover the distance for a free shirt is ludicrous. Sign up for a computer conference for about the same price as a marathon entry, walk a couple steps and get a free shirt for far less physical discomfort if that’s really the goal. However, that slowtwitch commenter is being a moron by even suggesting that shirt is the proverbial carrot that drives anyone to the finish line. Hell, they can get the shirt at the expo before the race without even having to get on the course.

    And you’re right that a 4:05 is super slow to some people. When a Kenyan is running a full marathon is about half that time, there’s no way you can create any kind of comparison amongst runners.

    Like I said when I wrote about this, if someone can finish within the rules and limits placed on that specific race, KUDOS to them.

    And please don’t question your ability, because you are more of a runner than those jerks are because you accept and welcome all levels in this sport! 🙂

  15. “If you’re wearing a marathon T-shirt, that doesn’t mean much anymore”

    Ok, it can be argued that running a marathon at a slower pace is actually harder. You spend more time on your feet, yet you work just as hard as someone who naturally runs an 8 min pace. It’s a much bigger accomplishment in that sense.

    And that Given lady is such a hypocrite. You are so right. Is 4:05 fast? I can do that too. If my time is standard, then she is a loser.

    My first coach would express such sentiment. And I never got it. Just because she was an elite running, doesn’t mean others can’t try.

  16. “As if it isn’t bad enough to say slow people don’t deserve to enter races, now this person wants to put a weight limit on it as well? REALLY???? And did this person really just suggest that someone would run (or run/walk or just walk) 26.2 miles for a t-shirt? And did this person also assume that those who are not overweight don’t suffer during a race? And in a society that struggles daily with obesity, do we really want to dissuade people who are overweight from being active?”

    This quote of yours is really spot on. I can’t believe that article was published, to begin with.

  17. I don’t even know where to begin. As I mentioned in a recent post, I was a spectator at a half marathon last weekend and loved seeing all of the different kinds of runners and ponder what motivated them. It is wonderful that there is an activity that so many people, different people, can participate in and enjoy. I give props to anyone who gets off their ass and does something active.

    Whether you finish a marathon in 2 hours or 8 hours, whether you walk it or run it, you have done something to better yourself and enhance your strength and courage. You set a goal, worked hard, and achieved it. And that pays forward, even if you don’t know it…

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