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.