The Wall Street Journal recently did an article entitled "The Slowest Generation" in which the author laments that races are increasingly turning into parades. You can find it here. When I say "article" what I'm actually referring to is a series of loosely connected anecdotes from cranky old men some of whom who have a fiduciary interest in making sure road races remain a competitive endeavor, emphasis on competitive. The article fails to give any real insight into the changing demographics of running or mention the increasing participation of women in the sport.
I am not fast. My race times prove that. They also prove I need compression sleeves to stop my calves from cramping, but that's another issue. Every time I've said that upon returning from a race, my co-workers have asked, "You finished, though? I wouldn't have run thirteen miles." Of course the author finds that mentality disturbing.
My inner women's college graduate wants to discuss why women have slower times than men. There are biological reasons for this. Second, I would hazard a guess that most of the women out there running races have a life other than running. All those pesky children and jobs and educations to deal with. Not to mention their husbands or boyfriends who just can't take care of themselves. I'm not saying there's some super woman out there who can't do it all and if you are that woman, please let us know how you do it. Third, competitiveness. I'm not saying women aren't competitive, I'm just proposing that a lot of us don't see the point in killing ourselves to beat someone we don't know by two seconds. That's not to say everyone feels that way, I've seen a lot of women on message boards complain about other people half-assing it and chatting with their friends and instead of running. While I too hate when a group runs five abreast, usually one will find that these women have no friends. They also usually hate people in tutus or sparkly skirts, I often find that's because they desperately need one to offset their lamentable personalities. Yes, I learned all this at women's college.
Let me now discuss the value of competition which was also a tenet of the article. Yes, competition can be good, but let's go through the competitions I've won. The 2nd grade reading challenge, a couple of Spelling Bees, I was second in Girl Scout Cookies sold in San Antonio one year and I've been a Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition. Now, about the Girl Scout cookies, I sold around 2,000 boxes the year that Desert Storm happened and my parents were head of the Council for Lackland Air Force Base and you might imagine, there were less parents available than usual that year. I did not get enough boxes to get the bike and I was sick of Girl Scout Cookies by the time it was over. The AFF Second Rounder thing I find irritating to no end. You'll notice none of these competitions are in athletics. Why? I'm never going to have a podium finish, in fact, I think my best chance of getting one may be to wait until I'm in my eighties and the competition has thinned out and then I'll need to find a small field. This is where the article and I reach the same conclusion, but disagree on whether that's a positive thing. Basically, if I'm not going to finish on the podium and I still get the same medal, why worry about beating people? The article thinks this mentality is responsible for the demise of America. I think I've got lots to worry about besides beating people at a race. I think competition is a construct designed to exclude people, hence why the author and his grumpy old friends would like us all to stay home.
That having been said, there was a girl at the Austin 1020 who kept trying to pick me off when I was basically having the worst race ever after my foot had fallen asleep for three miles which is apparently another reason I need compression calf sleeves. It just pissed me off because every time she went to pick me off she stopped just in front of me. She and I traded places for a while until I decided to smoke her. Keep in mind smoking her on that day meant just walking really fast until I couldn't see her anymore. Also, one time I ran way ahead of some Aggie girl because I was sick of listening to her talk to her boyfriend.
Also, the bling and being motivated by bling. Um, yeah? Why is that wrong? You wouldn't show up at school if they weren't going to give you a grade. You wouldn't show up at work if you weren't going to get money. Why the hell would I show up at a race where I did not expect to get a medal at the end? I mean a 5K, 10K, fine, but a half with no medal? I know, I know, the love of running, Forest Gump ran for two years... God bless him, but people forget that Forest Gump was not very smart and also, fictional.
So, I say we find the author's next event and join hands and prancercise in front of him in our sparkly skirts and tutus. At least it will make for a more interesting article.