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I'll Take My Race Timed, Thank You

My friend Beth brought to my attention this Wall Street Journal article about the decline of competitiveness in younger runners (20s and 30s) these days. In the article, titled "The Slowest Generation" (ouch), author Kevin Helliker touches on the popularity of races such as the Color Run, which embrace the ideologies of running for fun and running to finish, and which therefore do not even time their participants. I can think immediately of several runs that have followed in the footsteps of the Color Run--the Flavor Run, the Glow Run, the Color Vibe 5K, Color Me Rad, and the list goes on. I've never attended these "races," for a number of reasons:
  1. I don't like distractions during a race (such as color being thrown at me). 
  2. Races are a healthy environment in which to express competitiveness; in fact, that's what they're made for.
  3. I already feel a great sense of camaraderie when I run a timed race; while there is competition among runners, there is also good will and respect.
  4. Registration fees for these types of races are often exorbitant--upwards of $45 for a 5k, and they aren't even paying for timing! AND you often have to buy a white t-shirt that you can then ruin with paint.
  5. The size of some of these races is so large that the race must start in waves, some going into the later hours of the morning. I don't want to wait around for that.
This isn't to say that the races don't have value; obviously if they are getting such high numbers of registrants, and more copycat races are able to thrive, a certain population of runners is being served. And initially, my thoughts about the color runs and the like were, good for those runners. I may not want to run those races, but if colored paint and a non-competitive environment get new or timid runners out there, great! And while I still feel this way to an extent, I found Helliker's article illuminating and his point that there is "a growing embrace of mediocrity" frightening.

I recently posted about a 10k race I ran--one that I thought I'd be able to take lightly, but could not. And I'm glad I cannot ignore the instinct to race, to push harder than I do in any training run, harder than I think I can, until I feel breathless, used up, my muscles begging me to stop but my determination willing me to go, because if I slow down now, then what was it all for? How do I ever know what I'm capable of? What will I strive to outdo next time if not a personal best? Those words mean something significant to me, and the place to put them into action is at a race. And a race is not a race if it is stripped of its competitive nature. And while running is not a career for me, it's still dearly important. It informs so many other areas of my life. Running--racing, in particular--has given me as sense of confidence and pride that I was lacking before. If I were to approach other areas of my life with an "I'm just here to finish" or "I'm just here for fun" mentality, I'd be ill-respected at work, my relationships would suffer, and, worst of all, I would not know my own worth. Running is not just about running; it's about pushing oneself past boundaries once thought insurmountable. And that is best exemplified in racing.

So I'm taking Helliker's piece as a call to action. I refuse to be in the ranks of the mediocre; even if my times are not stellar, I take pride in knowing I tried my best. I put everything out there on the race course. And whatever impact my results have on my generation's racing times, I am proud of those results, and I know they were hard-earned.


Anonymous said…
What is the point in attempting anything if you're not going to try to excel. Isn't it human nature to want to do well in everything and anything. It doesn't mean you'll be the best but internally, you want to be the best or at least attempt to be the best. Even if you don't say it loudly to your friends or peers. Do you ever hear people scream "Yes, I got last place!!"? But you do hear people say something to the effect of "Yes, I've won first" or "Yes, I did better than last time." Anywho, the dude you referenced is right. "A growing embrace of mediocrity" is not the type of mentality I wish to be around. Like this post,Lee. Thanks.--G.Alcin
Lee Davidson said…
Thanks, G! Appreciate the feedback :)

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