From the brilliant mind that brought us ‘What Kind of Runner Are You?’ comes this next piece about the people who might be flying by as you try to ponder that first bit.
By Dan Dipiro
One of the great things about running is that all kinds of people can get pretty darn good at it, so long as they put in their miles.
One of the bad things about running is that you can put in quite a few miles, start to think you’re getting pretty good, and then get passed by all kinds of people.
Here’s a little list of some of the people who may catch you by surprise and kick your fanny out there on the race course.
Ever see a speed walker? Ha, ha, ha! They look pretty funny walking like that, don’t they?
Cross paths with a good one, though, and you won’t think speed walking is so laughable. Take, for example, the winning walker of last year’s Seacoast Half Marathon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Adrian Blocki walked a 7:04 pace for 13.1 miles, for a 1:32:31.
Blocki didn’t just win the walking division. Of the 1,125 people who ran the race, he beat 1,096 of them. That’s right. Only the top 29 runners beat this walker.
Oof. This one can be painful for any adult. Painful to experience. And painful to witness.
There isn’t a much sadder sight in sports than an old three-sport-varsity letterman — once the town hero — sprinting for the finish line of a 5K fundraiser, red faced, belly bouncing, and unable to catch the 5th-grader dashing effortlessly ahead of him.
Later, in the food tent, the old jock may tell buddies and family members that he “let the kid win.” But you’ll know what you saw. And you won’t soon erase the memory. Or the lesson learned: little kids can be fast.
Robotics Team Captains
Yeah, racing with competence does not necessarily require a heck of a lot of…well…hand-eye coordination, athleticism, or cool.
If you’re used to hopping into new sports, and doing well right away, because you are a gifted, confident athlete, you could be in for a humbling surprise when the guy who captained the robotics team and brought LARP to your high school goes flying by.*
*My apologies for perpetuating stereotypes about those with penchants for robotics and LARP. By all means, exact your revenge by beating me in road races and by leading successful professional lives in STEM fields and the theater arts, while this pathetic old runner goes blogging on and on…. (Who even blogs anymore?)
Can you say “demoralizing,” young lady? I’m sorry, but it’s just the nature of our sport. There are some fast old folks out there, and they will pass you if you’re not ready, no matter what your age.
And by “old,” I don’t mean people in their 50s or 60s — the fastest of them are still winning road races.
I’m talking about people in their 70s and even 80s. If you haven’t trained enough, you could be passed by someone who voted for Eisenhower and retired from his or her career a quarter of a century ago.
Does anything deflate an overly confident road racer like getting passed by a sleeping infant?
Yes. Getting passed by a double stroller bearing two sleeping passengers and the optional mesh stroller bag swinging like a hammock and bulging with Gatorade bottles, spare diapers, a box of wipes, and running clothes peeled off mid-race.
Oh man, that hurts. And it happens. So look out. There are some fit and fast fertile folks out there.
Everyone knows that the best distance runners — men and women — tend to be little and slender. But I emphasize little women here for macho newbies with extra thick skulls. That’s right, macho man, you need to understand this: little women can whip your ass in this sport. So get your ego ready.
Maybe you’ve known some female jocks in your sporting circles? And they were strong women who could help you move, say, a pool table?
Forget about that. The most lethal women in this sport are whippet thin. And the less they look like someone who could push your truck from a ditch, the more you need to be ready for a first-class whuppin.
Not-so-little Women and Men
Just when you think you’ve got this sport figured out — about little, slender people being fast — a chubby racer will come up alongside you and drop you like a moldy cucumber from the bottom of the fridge.
We owe this fact to a rare genetic occurrence: 1 out of 625,000 chubby people is born with a VO2 max rivaling that of a fully-doped Lance Armstrong.** And 1 out of 125 of these people discover their genetic fortune and take up running.***
Should you cross paths with one of these portly assassins, godspeed.
**A fabricated statistic, but I think it’s true.
The Differently Abled
Okay, it wouldn’t be right for me to joke about this one. But I wouldn’t be a good journalist if I didn’t cover this point, so I have to tackle it. (Did he just call himself a “journalist”?) There I go, joking again when I shouldn’t. But back to our topic.
When I was first getting into racing, I was in the middle of this race — the TK O’Malley’s 10K, down on Boston’s south shore — and this guy came hobbling past me with this incredibly awkward gate that had his whole body plunging down low and to the side with every other step.
One of his legs was a lot shorter than the other, and it didn’t move well. It looked withered and rigid — stuck, at the knee, in a partially bent position. But…
This. Guy. Was. Fa. Lying!
Or so I told myself then.
Hang in. It’ll Eventually Work for You.
But let’s end on a positive note.
Even if you are, for whatever reason, taking a beating right now at the hands of speed walkers, children, strollers, and LARPers, you do have something to look forward to.
Keep putting in your miles and eventually you will be the old man or old woman featured in younger racers’ you-won’t-believe-who-passed-me stories.
Be sure to check out Dan’s blog: shodfoot running