Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ripping and Racing

The review I did on the Pearl Izumi technical shirt, where I also shared my thoughts on their advertising campaign, caused Fran to comment:

But I also read a small article in the Dutch Runners World about a guy who "ran" the LA marathon in over 10 hours. That is he ran the first 10K and walked the rest. I'm sorry but that's not running a marathon in my opinion. I have no problems at all by walking during a half or a full but if I do a half I want to run it most of the time. Otherwise I could better enter a walking event. What's your opinion on this?”

(If you want to read about that man and his exploits, Google it.)

This is an issue that is very much a hot button in the running community.  To me the problem lies in where to draw the line.  Because you see, people like the Pearl Izumi PR folks and other assorted runners who run 5-6 minute miles might consider me to be a person who shouldn’t be in their events with my 10-11 minute mile.

So, there are events like the Boston Marathon where in order to run, you have to qualify by running another marathon at a certain pace, which is based on age.  The idea is to have the best of the best so that everyone is actually racing.  However, even the venerable Boston has given in to charity runners.  The race organizers donate a certain amount of bibs to various charities and let them pass the bibs out.  Don’t get me wrong; there are “runners” in the charity groups. I have a very good friend who raised $40,000 one year for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute so he could run Boston, which he’d always wanted to do.  He tried to qualify but never could: his best time was 3:55 but he needed 3:20 to qualify.  In marathon running – in any running 35 minutes is a big difference! To be honest though, this is where you’ll find most of your walkers – people who also raise thousands and thousands of dollars for very good causes. 

Race directors have tried to solve this issue at larger races by creating corrals.  You line up at the start by your predicted finish time.  In theory this puts the faster people in the front (right behind the elite runners who are racing for money) and the slowest to the back.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well as it should and I’m not sure why.  I speak from experience here as both times I’ve run the Marine Corps Marathon I’ve found myself weaving and bobbing around folks who were already walking at mile 2.  I have nothing against walking and in fact at the marathon distance, I walk through every water stop and drink as I walk.  But like I said in Monday’s post, if you’re going to walk – or even run/walk (and there are some FAST run/walkers out there) – when it’s time to walk, pull over all the way to the right or left before you start walking so that you don’t make a runner have to suddenly stop short.

It seems to me the half marathon races deal with this issue even more than the full marathon.  Perhaps because 13.1 miles seems infinitely more “doable” than 26.2, so even more walkers sign up for them.  However, there also seems to be more tolerance for walking at half marathons.

And so, my thoughts on this can be boiled down to a few solutions:

  1. Don’t sign up for a running racing event if you haven’t properly trained for it.  You know if you’ve trained or not.  Just be honest about that and you won’t find yourself in awkward situations.  As it is, some of us who do train end up having terrible races simply because racing is subjective to lots of things: weather conditions, physical condition on that day, what you ate the day before, if your big toe is hurting, etc., etc.

  1. If you are a walker, look for walking only events.  My local area really only has one but in the past few years they’ve gone from being a full marathon walk only to a 5K, 13.1 and 26.2 mile walk.  And it’s for a good cause.   Laurie just completed the Avon Walk.  Shelley just did the Big Sur, which has divisions for runners and walkers.  Events are out there, you just need to look.

  1. If you really want to complete a certain distance, you don’t need a pre-organized running race to do that.  Yes, there is camaraderie and swag and all sorts of reasons to enter races.  But ultimately if you’re not ready, and the race isn’t ready to accommodate you, it’s not a good idea (see #1).  I have, on many occasions decided I wanted to do a half marathon distance and there were no races.  So I mapped it out and did it anyway.  There is a great feeling of accomplishment in completing the distance, that’s for sure!

  1. If you insist on doing a race, look for a big one.  There will inevitably be slower folks (like me) and the overall finishing times will be slower so even if you’re at the back of the pack, chances are there will be other people back there with you.

  1. Most marathon distances have time limits, i.e., you must finish in 7 hours or less.  If you can’t do that, don’t enter the race.  That’s simply being respectful to the race organizers and volunteers.
There you have it Fran (and anyone else who has hung in there through this long post!) - my full 2 cents on the matter.


Quick note to say I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend and that it’s a long one for you!  I am taking an extra day off to get some painting done.  Blech.  I’m also going to be reuniting with my 9th grade biology lab partner!!  We haven’t seen each other since 1983 or so.  Just lost touch and through the magic of Facebook reconnected a few years back.  His parents, who are in their 90’s! still live in New England and he is coming home for a visit, flying from California to NYC and then taking the train.  He’s going to get off the train in my city for 4 hours.  I’m very excited. In any case, I don't expect to have any more posts up until next week.  Enjoy!


  1. OMG how fun with the lab partner reuniting!!

    have a fantastic time!

  2. I don't mind people walking in races, but I really wish race etiquette was pushed more. When I did that 10 mile race, I had a Galloway group of four who not only ran abreast, they stopped and walked abreast. A WALL of people that I continually had to go around - putting in a burst of speed every few minutes that I hadn't trained for was tough.

    And basically all sorts of people say they "ran" races when they mostly walked. I guess whatever floats their boat...just stay to the side, por favor! (like we did when we walked Big Sur - not that hard, people!)

    Hope you have a great long weekend. Painting doesn't sound fun, but it will look so nice when you're done! And have a good time with your buddy. You should post high school pictures and current pictures!

  3. I agree whole heartedly for #1. I had a co-worker who wanted to run a 5k and I said I would run it with her.

    She trained on a different schedule as me, but assured me come race time, she was ready.

    It was a super small local town race - maybe 100 runners total. Within the first 500 feet she and I were dead last. Within 1000 feet she was panting and walking.

    I ended up leaving her at around mile 2, and had to assure the event people at mile 3 that there was still someone behind me.

    She ended up finishing it in 55 minutes. She was so sore from it she called in sick the next day!

    I have been officially banned for trying to paint anything else in our house - I suck at it and we eventually have to hire professionals to fix my mistakes. :(

    Have a fantastic weekend Helen! I have jury duty the day after Memorial Day - yuk!

  4. I have an award for you Miss Helen. Stop by when you have a chance :)

  5. Have a super long weekend! I'll sing the Friday song again :D

    I don't mind walkers in races, but I really don't like it when they are up in the front of the group and then you have to try to pass around them. If you want to walk, just be considerate. Actually, being considerate goes for runner, walkers, ski polers, roller bladers, bikers, etc.

  6. Very fun that you'll be reconnecting with your old lab partner! Have fun! (and love your post on races!!) Have a good Thursday Helen!

  7. Since I am not a runner and have never entered a race even to walk I have no experience to share!

    What fun to catch up with an old friend.

    Hope you enjoy your long weekend Helen. I am looking forward to it even though it will be a weekend of chores for us!

  8. With the Couch-to-5K type programs exploding and races becoming the thing to do when you get serious with exercising, I think race etiquette is an excellent, excellent idea.

  9. Well, I only participated in one race ever, and you know how I love 'Run, Fatboy, Run' =) so I can't really comment. What gets to me, period, is the HUMONGOUS NUMBER OF PEOPLE *CRUSHING* you ... so, I get all anxious about races just thinking about them. To the point where I seriously doubt I'll ever participate in an organized event again. Sad but true.

  10. First of all: have a great weekend, so cool you are going to meet your old lab partner.

    I totally agree with you on the running post.
    Here in Holland we have time limits on almost every race that is held. For example the next half I signed up for in October has a time limit of 3 hours. The marathon has a time limit of 6 hours.

    I have nothing against walkers during a run, hell I do it myself :) I don't like to run and zip water so I too walk through water posts and drink my water. I don't like taking a gel and drink and run at the same time so when I take a gel I walk too.

    On my next event I'm going to see if people here have etiquette and move to the side if they want to walk.

  11. I've been lucky never to encounter an abundance of people walking. I know that people often stop and walk for short periods during races (water stations, or if they do 10 and 1's or whatever), but I had no idea people walk entire runs.

    If I'm doing 10 and 1's or something, I usually make my way to the edge so that I'm as out of the way as possible.

  12. I do Galloway, so I run and walk, but I always move to the right as far as possible and also look behind me before I move right or left to be sure no one is coming up behind me quickly. I don't particularly like the snarky comments from other runners like "I can't believe someone is walking already." I actually get about the same times in races whether I run or run/walk, but I feel much better when I run/walk.

    I hate people running in races with ipods though! Especially when the rules specifically say they are prohibited.