This post may not go so well, partly because I don’t have a full grasp on the subject outside of some recent conversations and experiences and partly because I’m pretty exhausted from the workout today and the lack of sleep lately. So yeah, bear with me.
Ever since I became a somewhat conscience individual, aware of specific treatment towards myself and the treatment I gave to others, I have dabbled in politics in varying degrees. Not the sort of representational or reformist politics that comprise the facade of american democracy, but more of an active involvement in liberated living. And let me tell you, that stuff gets old reeeeeal quick. The endless meetings. The interpersonal conflicts. The failed projects. The wasted time. The embarrasing associates. The list is endless. Granted, there are small victories and liberatory experiences, but overall, I can’t recommend the process to anyone in good conscience.
So as my life began to become consumed with running more and more I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t become embroiled in heated debates. I wouldn’t have to utter the words “organization”, “autonomy”, “bail money”, “sacrifice”, etc. etc. Running was a cultural safe spot. Sure, I could engage with radical politics when I felt it worthwhile, but I always have running to escape to, the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and not concerning myself with authoritarianism and domination.
Or so I thought.
Although the politics of running culture aren’t on the same plane as, say, anarchist politics, I could see myself becoming easily sucked into a sense of conflict with specific entities that play a part in the running scene. Namely race directors. Recently I’ve had some experiences at races that, as much as I tried to avoid, left a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. Granted, this is going to come off as whiny and a touch arrogant, but just know this is not my intention or how I planned to deliver it. It’s just what I see as plain truth.
Basically, I’ve had a couple races that I have placed at which offered unspecific rewards, and come to find out they were hardly awards at all. One race I won outright, and was simply given a medal at the ceremony, although the year prior we had been given medals, a trophy, a hat, and a gift certificate to a running store. This year, they mailed a trophy later a couple weeks later. A second race that I placed third in, about a month later I received my “prize” in the mail. A typed out letter stating my place and a 1/2 inch pin. Umm…thanks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I appreciate all the work that goes into a race, the time, the money, the volunteers. Everything. However, there are a couple things to point out in this process. If a race is going to recognize the top runners, it means they recognize an individuals acheivements and feel it appropriate to award them, but to simply give recognition out of obligation, with no true appreciation backing it, that’s another story. Maybe I’m being whiny, but not sufficiently awarding ones hard work and only offering a pin or trophy simply doesn’t cut it.
Another point to consider is that races are big business. Although races take a considerable portion of money to actually organize, a more significant amount actually comes in from race registrations that enable this process. It’s not like race directors break even on a race. To think that a race only makes enough to organize and there isn’t even a small amount left over for at least the top three placings is just naive. On top of that, races are also funded by the sponsor soup that adorns the back of all hte shirts. To think each of these sponsors couldn’t put up either a small bit of money or at least gift certificate to the winners is just lazy.
And this is the thing….competitive runners don’t simply run. Yes, we love running. We primarily do it to challenge ourselves and see how fast we can really go, but it shouldn’t be denied that we also train specifically FOR races. It should be acknowledged by all race directors that runners are training for THEIR race and the time and effort that goes into that training should be respected in a more significant reward than just a pat on the back. To be fair, some race directors are better at this than others.
I think part of the disconnect here is that again, races are big business, and I’m not convinced that a lot of the people involved TRULY understand what efforts competitive distance runners make to perform at the level we do. It’s not solely recreational. Again, we love running and sometimes can’t get out the door fast enough to work ourselves to the edge, but it’s not always a cake walk. Somedays we are simply exhausted. Sometimes our minds are completely elsewhere. Sometimes it’s 5 degree without the wind chill. But we still get out there and put in the work necessary to perform come race day. That is no small thing. It involves a time sacrifice and a financial sacrifice…sometimes, tragically, even a relationship sacrifice. So with this in mind, forgive me if I feel a little bit slighted when I’m given a pat on the back for busting my ass on a rough race course, after putting day after day of training in leading up to the race.
There is another dynamic to this point that I haven’t been a part of, but other racers I know have. Race directors often comp entry fees for elite runners, meaning they let them in the race for the publicity and fast course times and wave the entry fee. This is nice, but it also puts the racer in a tough position to complain about meager awards when they are already compensated at registration. A recent story was relayed to me where prize money was given if certain times were beaten (very fast times), but the course was so off and it’s mile markers so off that it really made it difficult for the contenders to gauge their appropriate pace. When it was addressed with the director, he threatened to stop giving them comped entries. So far, I’ve avoided this predicament as I’ve paid for every race I’ve entered, though I was offered free entry once.
Fortunately, there is also a more humorous side to the politics of running. On today’s run we were told about a little rivalry being developed south of us in Kentucky. As far as I understood the story, apparently there is a running store who sponsored some local elites, but another running store recruited the top runners from this store to run for his. This pissed off the owner of the first store. So, these guys are going to be doing a race in Cincinnatti this weekend and the pissed off owner called one of the guys in our group and told him to get some guys up here to do the race in Cinci and kick their asses (in the race…not literally). He offered to comp the entry fees and pay for hotel rooms…like rock stars! I don’t know if anyone committted to doing it on short term, but I found the whole scenario pretty hilarious…and tempting.
So as it stands, taking refuge in running to escape politics isn’t really a fool-proof plan, but for the time being I haven’t taken an active role in addressing what I feel to be discrepancies in the race culture. I can’t say I’ll always stay clear of the conflict, because really, I just want this whole process to be simple and fun. I’ve been doing a pretty good job at it so far…but damn, antagonization is a weakness of mine.
3 mile warmup
3 miles at hard pace – 15:36 (5:12 per mile)
8 x 1 minute hard w/ 1 minute easy between
3 miles cool down
Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ peanut butter, turbinado, raisins, almonds) coffee
Lunch – cous cous with brocolli and tofu / peanut butter and cream cheese sandwich (don’t ask)
Dinner – pasta w/ nutritional yeast and lemon pepper
Snacks – Coffee, ginger brew, water, spelt crackers, chocolate soy milk, Smoothie, black bean burger