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A Rant

12/06/2011

If you following racing online like a good little running geek, you have surely read some of the fall-out from the Hot Chocolate 15K this past weekend. I did not participate this race and I was not one of the runners standing out in the cold for an hour during the delayed start, but from what I’ve read, this logistical nightmare is exactly what is wrong with racing today.

For an inaugural event, 15000 runners might have been a bit overzealous. Compared to big races like NYC and Chicago, 15000 may seem like a drop in the pan, but this event was originally capped at 5000 runners. Race organizers assured all parties involved that they could accommodate more runners. Maybe… but 10000 more? Seems like dollar signs may of have clouded good judgement here. The trend seems to be herding as many runners to the starting line as possible these days and it was just a matter of time before things started to fall apart; the post-race shuttle bus situation at the Las Vegas Half/Full this Sunday is another glaring example of race directors not sweating the small stuff.

Second, while trying to accommodate 15000 runners in an area known for nightmarish traffic, there was a car accident (or two–that part isn’t too clear) that forced road closures. This meant runners trying to bottleneck into the race area were at a complete standstill. Their cars moved a foot every few minutes. This was definitely bad luck and could have been chalked up as “just one of those things” BUT it was not handled well by the race organizers. They decided to delay the start of the race, but failed to communicate that effectively via word of mouth (to the runners standing in the starting corrals freezing their tushies off) and through social media (to the runner’s trapped inside their cars incessantly refreshing Facebook in a state of panic). When I ran the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Half Marathon in June, there was a glitch with one of the shuttle buses. To be fair to all participants the race director decided to delay the start. Every few minutes he made announcements explaining the situation and offered sincerest apologies. A few losers people grumbled about it, but most were appreciative that they were given updates instead of just standing around clueless. Another example: during my waitress days, I found that customers were very understanding if you kindly explained that the kitchen was backed up and that their food would be out shortly instead of having them sit there waiting and waiting and waiting for their dinner while I hid behind the soda fountain. Common courtesy and communication go a long way.

There were also issues with the seeding/starting corrals system at this race and because I wasn’t there, I can’t fairly comment on that, but I will offer an opinion on what pisses me off the most about this Hot Chocolate Backlash. I’ve read some participants bitch and moan that there were no finishers medals. What? Really? What ever happened to running a race just to run it? And finishing it for accomplishment’s sake? What ever happened to training and then being satisfied with the hard work you put into something? And being proud of your follow through? Remember when crossing the finish line and achieving a goal was its own reward? Now cry baby adults need a piece of shiny shit on a ribbon in order to run a race? REALLY?

When I ran in high school, I was mediocre-middle of the pack. Sometimes I was part of the top 7 Varsity squad for cross-country meets and sometimes I was bumped back to JV. And I never won a medal. And I didn’t care. I was just happy to be out running. I loved it and I loved being part of the team, and I didn’t need hardware to make it worthwhile. Participating was enough for me.

When I was racing for LIRRC in 2005-2006, I was pretty good and I consistently took home age group awards. But those were never my motivation because I knew that they would one day be sitting in a box in my basement. Do you know where they are right now? Sitting in a box in my basement and they have been for 4+ years. Nowadays, I very rarely win age group awards, but I am still running. No matter what, participating is enough for me.

Some of you may have heard my “Kids are wimps” rant. They are. They are no longer taught winning and losing and the value of working hard. They are taught that they are entitled to be on a sports team, entitled to get equal playing time, and are entitled to a trophy at the end of the season. Whether a kid gives 110% or 10%, they walk away with the same accolades after the last game. And if they don’t, mom and dad will challenge the coach, the athletic director, the principal, and the superintendent. When I was cut from basketball in high school, I’m sure my parents felt badly but they also taught me that if I wanted to try out again next year, I needed to work hard and practice, practice, practice. When I was coaching lacrosse, I would have to sneak out of the back door after posting my final roster because parents would be waiting to confront the coaches. When did this shift happen? When did we start handing out ribbons just for showing up? When did kids stop having to earn things? Sometimes your kid isn’t the best and that is ok. Sometimes your kid wins and sometimes your kid loses and both are ok too. But your kid is never going to learn the value of hard work and dedication and fortitude if mom and dad are pissing and groaning all over Facebook about a race not handing out finisher’s medals.

This is why the big races do not appeal to me at all. I want a race that is well-organized with some nice scenery. I don’t need a fancy tech tee, live music along the course, and a piece of tin for crossing the finishing line. Give that money to charity or donate it to the town that hosted the event or sponsor a local youth athletic association. I would never chose a race based on its goodie bag. Ever. Because that’s not why I run. I run because it is a part of who I am. Race-day swag can be fun, but without it, I’d still be out on the roads. Would you?

Should this be mandatory reading for all parents AND runners?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/06/2011 10:17 AM

    One word: AMEN!

  2. 12/06/2011 10:28 AM

    First I want to say that I am relieved after reading this post; when I saw the title, “A Rant,” I thought it might be about how you were tired of the excessive emails your sister was sending you, particularly those featuring cats, and how you couldn’t wait until she went back to work.

    After my relief faded, I got kind of annoyed. These days I feel like everyone’s always looking for what’s in it for them, whether it’s participating to get a ribbon or helping someone if it will be acknowledged. What ever happened to doing something for the joy it brings you or helping someone because it’s the right thing to do? I know I’m going off on a tangent, but this seems more evident right now to me with Christmas approaching. This season more than ever seems more about things than what is really important and it makes me sad because that’s not the world I want my sons to grow up in.

    So, getting back to your original point…I only ever won two awards when it came to sports. One was Most Improved for Ice Skating (which you were completely happy for me) and the other was the Sportsmanship Award for baskietball. I got them because I enjoyed what I was doing and tried really hard. I knew I would never be the best, but I did it because it was fun. When sports, or anything for that matter, become just about the prize instead of the enjoyment of the game they aren’t worth participating in.

    I hope this makes sense, since as I write I’m exhausted, have a headach and my 6 week old doesn’t seem to want to let me nap.

    • Suzanne permalink*
      12/06/2011 11:27 AM

      I can NEVER have too many cat emails. Or Ziggy posters.

      And yes, your co-rant makes perfect sense! Goal setting used to include trying your best and having fun but now it is “Well, what will I get?” When I ran the full marathon, I was more excited over the 26.2 sticker in my goody bag than the medal and the sticker cost $1.50.

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