Monday, February 27, 2012


I love the running community. I find it to be helpful and welcoming like no other group of people I've ever encountered. It is a weird subculture with its own lingo, but they are open to letting anyone join in. All you have to do is show up and try. I've written about this in the past. I felt like I was part of the running community long before I considered myself a runner. I've also heard many people who are fast runners comment on how they admire the people to whom running does not come as easily.

Sadly, that attitude doesn't seem to carry over to the everyone at race day. There are always people who take about 75 minutes to finish a 5K and they usually start about 5-15 minutes after the first runners cross the start line. This means that organizers and volunteers who start cleaning up at 60 minutes after the first runners start are doing so at the same time as these runners are struggling to complete their run. Sometimes, the mid-race and post-race refreshments are not there for the people who might need it most.

It's not just the organizers, either. Some of the early finishers start cutting across the course to get home. You should just wait until everyone is finished, or find a way around without cutting in front of runners. There are other early finishers who decide to run the course a second time. Even on their second pass, they're faster than the late starters, so they end up lapping them.

Before you defend these behaviors, think of how you'd feel if you were the person running the 60 minute race. Maybe that person is trying to lose weight and this is part of that journey. Maybe they have physical limitations that make running difficult. Maybe they're not yet in love with running, but realize that it's a great way to exercise. Are your race-day actions welcoming them to the running community, or making them feel demoralized? Will your actions on race day encourage them to run another 5K, or will you push them to hang up their running shoes?

I am always reminding of the Runner's World profile of Scott Jurek and this line, "The champion has always been beloved for being supportive of the slower, the more easily fatigued, and the less gifted." In the same article, they talk about him not finishing the 24 track race, but coming back at the end to shake the hands of every finisher and congratulate them.


  1. As someone who started out as a very slow runner, but has progressed to a medium-speed runner, I am always awed by the fortitude of those runners who are determined to finish a race, no matter pace, time, or ranking. Thanks for reminding me to hang out and cheer on all of the runners crossing the finish line -- not just those who finish first.

  2. I agree. I think most of the really fast runners agree, too. I just think that gets lost on race day.

    I'm going to make it a point to stay and cheer on all the runners who finish after me, too. Without clogging the gate.