I was not commenting on 'slow' runners, but many self-professed back-of-the-packers/slow runners seemed hurt that I wasn't acknowledging their right to run. Alas, that was not what I was saying. I was saying exactly the opposite: Everyone has a right to run THEIR race when they sign up for an event. I did say, at several points in that post, that whatever 'racing' meant to you you should be permitted to do it. The problem is when your choices or the way the race is organized (and that was my main issue) sometimes interferes with the aim of certain individuals.
Political philosophers take great pains to try to understand 'liberty' - what it is, what it allows and what its constraints may be. A general and somewhat uncontroversial definition of liberty goes something like this: Each individual is allowed to exercise a liberty to the extent that others make exercise like liberties.
So while that rules out certain behaviors, those behaviors were not the concern of that post.
But, I'll leave the running/racing etiquette issue for another post...
*********************************************************************However, during the discussion a larger issue became apparent and I think it needs to be addressed - and that is the strange double-edged-sword mentality that many runners fall prey to:
1) Defensiveness about their pace. They seem to be concerned that they are 'slow', but at the same time they maintain that they have every right to be slow - and yet they still seem defensive about their 'slowness'.
2) The belief that if someone isn't 'fast'- ie. running Olympic qualifying times - then they really have no business being concerned about their races? So, only those who are really fast have a right to worry about their race results and the rest of us slow pokes should just have fun.I don't understand this juxtaposition. First, why are so many runners so defensive about the pace they run? Running is a personal challenge, and that's the beauty of it. I can't even race my younger self, never mind someone else. I'm racing ME. I have goals that are mine alone. Do I like to compete against other women my age? Sure, no doubt about it. But that's only because it helps me push myself. I would rather set a PR then win my age group any day. What I run may be slow or fast based on where you're at, but that shouldn't really matter to you or to me. So my comments about running with people who were running at a slower pace simply concerns how this creates a difficult situation for everyone and my primary concern is when races are organized to create just this situation.
However, self-professed slow/back-of-the-pack runners seem to succumb to self-denigrating feelings about how slow they are, while simultaneously getting all prickly about how they have a right to be slow. There's often a tone of apology, and some even refer to their running as 'waddling' - and I'm sure that John Bingham would be proud - but there's often a tone of righteousness as well. According to many runners I'm slow. Should I feel bad about this and apologize for my relatively slow pace? No. Should I feel that somehow I don't measure up? No. Should I feel that I'm a sucky runner? No. Should I be telling myself and everyone around me that, "Yeah, I suck and I have every right to suck, so there", or, "Yeah, I'm slow and damn proud of it".? Why is that even an issue? That doesn't do anything for anyone. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who is out there, by definition, doesn't suck and isn't 'slow' in any objective sense. We need to stop denigrating ourselves and judging ourselves based upon how we think others judge us - because it just ain't true.
On the other edge of the sword is the view that I shouldn't worry about my race times if I'm not world class. Somehow, race times only really matter if you're going for an Olympic qualifier. But this notion seems to run counter to the above claim, that being, that I have a right to run my race even if I'm slow. And yet these two views seem to be expressed by the same individuals.
In logic there is a thing called "double think" - where a person believes two things that are mutually exclusive. I believe this is an instance of double think: 1) I have a right to run regardless of my pace, and 2) I really shouldn't be concerned about my race if I'm not really fast. Of course #2 pretty much applies to 99% of us.
I agree with #1 and I disagree with #2 - and I maintain, that you can't reasonably hold both views. Furthermore, I think we hold ourselves back and undermine our efforts by maintaining such irreconcilable beliefs.
According to #2, I guess I'm just supposed to go out there and have fun and to-heck-with-it if I have a sucky race. Sure I train 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, through rain and snow and heat and exhaustion...but it's all just about fun, right? I say that that is a big stinking pile of BS.
Most runners do it for fun AND for other reasons that may actually be more uplifting. For me it's not JUST about having fun. For me it's about the challenge, the exploration (of myself and my world), the discovery...and who knows what else...
Just run and let others do likewise.