I’m tired of slick 5Ks. The people who love running enough to plan one are always the fleet people, the ones who run as naturally as gazelles. In every race they host, the tables are clean, the Gatorade cups full, and the Gu and bananas and bagels plentiful. They’ve never slogged up to a table of exhausted volunteers sullenly filling paper cups to the halfway point with lukewarm water. They’ve never kicked their way through a debris pile of tossed cups or slipped on an empty Gu packet. The result of this is that the problem gets worse because it never occurs to these organizers that stumbling along at the back of the pack is rough enough already.
Example from my last race: The course and post-race party were laid out such that the finish line flanked the beer line. A fast person sees no problem with this. Listen to me, fast people: Every slow fat runner reading those words winced at the idea of wheezing and waddling across the finish line in front of all the people who are so fast that they are already in the beer line. That’s right, they’ve gotten their breath back, they’ve finished throwing up, they’ve stopped crying with shame, and they’ve gotten in the drink line.
These people must be magical Olympians. They must have finished the race hours ago. And now they are watching me slog across the finish, my wheezing drowning out the closing moments of the awards ceremony. It’s almost as bad as posting times online or having photographers snapping away as we stagger across the finish.
I want to be a race director. My 5K will be called “The Fat Turtle Slog.” I’d see to it that there was no water put out until the first 20% of runners had sailed by. “Sorry!” the volunteers would say as the pretty ones came for water. “We’re not set up yet!” We wouldn’t clear the path before the race, either, not until that 20% was gone. They can trudge through dogwalkers and passers-by. We’d only clear the path for the real runners. The finish line would be out of sight of the post-race party, and race photography would be password-protected. Timing would be discouraged, but wearing a watch would be permitted.
Yes, I called the back of the pack the “real” runners. We’re the ones who have to work for it. If you can run a half-marathon on impulse, I’m sorry, those of us who need three months of intense, painful hard work to get ready are entitled to look down on you. Do something that’s as hard for you as this is for us, and we’ll cheer for you. But we are not going to be impressed by you beating us any more than we think well of Alabama when they beat Central Arkansas A&M 77-0.
There would be no post-race food or beer at the race site, by the way. There would be a race after-party, but if you want pizza and beer, go get it yourself. Alcoholics Anonymous does not reward milestoners with shots. The real runners run to work that stuff off. The medal and the T-shirt is enough for us.
By the way, the special T-shirts at my race will be given to the last 20% of registrants. We understand that it took you a long time to work up the courage to register. The medals will be handed out in reverse order of finish. If we didn’t order enough and run out, those showoffs who finished first can fill out a form on our website.
They can fill out that form after the awards ceremony, which will not begin until well after the last runner is reported to have crossed the finish line. If you finished quickly, then you can wait patiently for everyone to finish, the way the courageous runners wait in the last corral for their turn to start.