Athletics Magazine

Do “Slow” Runners Ruin Marathons?

By Brisdon @shutuprun

Thanks for all of your enthusiasm about my upcoming trip/marathon. Shabbat shalom! Holy land here I come!

I got a comment on my last post – someone who considers herself a “slow” runner. She wondered if it bothered me to have slower runners in a race. She read some article awhile back about slower runners “ruining” races.

From the Google searching I have done, I think this must be the article she is referring to (New York Times, October 2009): Plodders Have a Place, But Is It in the Marathon?

{Disclaimer: I am not a fast runner. I am an average runner. I have good and bad races. My typical marathon time ranges from 3:40 to 4:00. That means I’m right in the middle of “fast” and “slow.”}

First of all, I’m not sure anyone – runner, walker or run/walker wants to be called a “plodder.” That sounds like someone who wears shoes that are too big and stomps down the street like a clumsy donkey. Certainly not someone who can cover 26.2 miles.

In the words of one cross country coach cited in the article: “It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours. It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’” 

Hmmm…judgey at all?

Indeed average marathon times are getting slower as the overall number of marathoners increases. I attribute the rise in runners to marathon fever – running is infectious much like the flu. If you have a friend or family member who has the bug, you can quickly and unknowingly contract it too.

Do “Slow” Runners Ruin Marathons?

We also live in a country where we are constantly being reminded of how fat and unhealthy we are. Running a marathon is the ultimate “eff you” to being unhealthy. It represents choosing a goal and accomplishing something that was once thought to only be for the most elite of athletes.

If having the goal of running a marathon makes someone’s life better, then they should do it. Maybe it helps you lose weight or bring you out of the depths of depression. Perhaps you become a better parent or spouse when you take on the marathon goal. Maybe running and training for a marathon is the one thing that keeps you from taking that drink that would send you into a downward spiral.

Who are we to say what constitutes doing a marathon the right way? I don’t recall it being in the Bible or the Constitution that you had to RUN the entire marathon. You just have to cover the distance.

Yes, it it is assumed that marathons are to run, but why the hell do I even care? I have my own goals for my own race, which means to run the whole thing in a certain period of time. As long as I don’t have a million walkers blocking my way I couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

Lastly, who is to say that just because you walk your first marathon and it takes you 6 hours, that you won’t one day run the whole marathon in 4 hours? We all have to start somewhere.

I have to wonder if “faster” runners feel the marathon is being watered down and made less of an accomplishment if some people choose to walk most of it. I stand by the fact that we all need to have our personal goals of what it means to accomplish the race. Just because Runner #1 finishes in 3 hours and Runner #2 finishes in 5 hours doesn’t mean they both didn’t accomplish something monumental.

That said, I don’t think finish lines should be open all day. There should be cut off times. Regardless of how fast you do it, I believe the marathon is supposed to be a push and the ultimate challenge throughout. With a time deadline, this “push” is encouraged.  Also, runners should be in the proper corral for their pace.

Just my .02¢

Do you think slower runners “ruin” marathons?

Where do you fall on the fast/slow spectrum?

What are your thoughts on cut off times?


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