Last blog I wrote about my favourite races. This blog I thought I’d write about the most annoying race experiences I’ve had, in particular, other racers. This being said, I must preface it by saying that 99% of the people I have encountered while running races are terrific. It also should be noted that I think, most people who do endurance races are pretty stoic and pleasant people. They’re the guest at a wedding that smiles quietly and tends to ask questions to others instead of talking about themselves. Except for a lot of Ironman participants. It’s been my experience that a lot of Ironman finishers love to talk about the Ironman…..
”oh this tattoo… it’s the Ironman logo. What’s the Ironman? Oh just something I’ve done that hardly anybody can do and makes me an Ironman. If I get married, it’ll probably be an Ironman ceremony with an Ironman cake and Ironman Timex gift watches for everybody. We’ll Ironman honeymoon by Ironmanning.”
For most of us one of the reasons we run is solitude. We either like being in our heads or its one of the few times during the day that we aren’t bothered by noise or other people. My sister who has three young kids refuses to miss her daily run even if she’s sick or had just a few hours’ sleep because it’s the only time of the day where she’s not besieged with, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”
Personally, running’s been like silent therapy for me. Probably the worst decade of my life was when I lived in LA. Both personally and professionally, it was a sink hole. I tried to suppress how unhappy I was by telling myself that my life wasn’t so bad….at least I had a job and was healthy. The only time I was truly happy was when I was running. I would get up every morning without an alarm clock at 5AM because I was looking forward to running up Runyon Canyon unto Mulholland Drive for the only hour and a half of my day in silence that wouldn’t completely suck.
Surfing provided the same solace as well. When I discovered Stand Up Paddleboards that was even better. I could paddle out on the ocean to wherever I wanted to be with nobody else around. Heaven.
So when it comes to race day, I’m looking forward to spending all of that time alone in my own head and more so, am used to the quiet that long training brings. However, I also enjoy that feeling about a minute before the race begins when you can feel an electricity run through the crowd. Strangers patting each other on the shoulder and wishing them luck. Everybody seconds away from the start of something they’ve spent months training for. We’ll all finish at different times but we all know what it took to get to the start line and we all hope everybody will cross the finish line. It’s the same way New Yorkers treat each other a week before Christmas.
So I apologize if this blog is a little negative but here they are:
Flip Flop Girl
Flip Flop Girl was at the Connemara 100 ultra in Ireland. At about mile 30 I caught up to her. The fact that you’ll run into any of your other fellow runners at Connemara is pretty rare. Each race there’s usually no more than about 20 racers. It’s not because it’s an elite field, I think it’s because in order to do the race you need a support vehicle and it is also a self-supported race. There are plenty of other hundred milers where you don’t need a road crew and aid stations are provided. So, once the gun goes off, after about a mile or two, it’s rare to see anybody else out on the course.
So, when I came up upon Flip Flop Girl, I thought it simply polite to say “Hi”.
No answer. Just a cold “don’t bug me stare” which I totally understood. I too like the quiet of running and don’t want to expend the energy to make a new friend on any race or training run. Plus, guys have no idea how creepy they can be to women. The last thing I wanted to do was have Flip Flop Girl think that I was hitting on her.
Try as I might to give her space (slowing down, speeding up, walking) we managed to keep practically the same pace for about 15KM. Immediately I noticed that she was running in flip flops. Since we couldn’t shake one another, I thought I’d ask her about her unique choice of running shoes for a 100 mile race.
“So are you just taking a break from wearing running shoes…. or?”
“Uh, yeah I run barefoot like the Tarahumara Indians. It’s the most natural and best way to run.”
“Oh yeah, I read that book too, “Born to Run.”
Born to Run is a great book and a great read but barefoot running for me is disastrous. I have a very high arch on my foot and am 98kg when at my lightest. I have tried running with next to nothing on my feet and I can’t get further than about half a kilometre before feeling like my entire body has been in a paint shaker.
Flip Flop was extremely pissed that I had made the connection.
“Uh…. I’ve been running barefoot way before that book even came out.”
From then on she felt the need to tell me how I was running wrong and that my strategy for the race was not a good one, even though I didn’t discuss my strategy for the race with her or tell her how I thought one should run. Thankfully, after 15K, she stopped into the next aid station and I tried to get as much distance between the two of us.
Los Angeles Marathon 2001
I lived in Los Angeles for ten years and decided to do the marathon there since part of the course was a block from my house and I figured I’d support my hometown marathon.
I have never run a marathon where so many people were talking on their phones. What can you possibly have to say to anybody on the phone while running a marathon? “Yeah, still running. Man, I’m tired. Twenty Six miles is a long way. Anyway, what’s up with you? Oh gotta go. Sponge station coming up.”
This was my first marathon. If you’re thinking of doing a marathon in Canada, Ottawa is a great choice. Since it’s the nation’s capital, the city is kept very tidy. In winter, the canal that runs through it is the world’s largest outdoor ice rink and in summer, most of the city is one big outdoor park. The marathon is relatively flat and makes its way through the most scenic parts of the city.
At about the tenth kilometre, I passed a guy wearing a shirt that said, “Run for Christ”. I think it’s great that people have a reason to run, whether its for Christ, their health or simple enjoyment but I don’t like to be told via a t-shirt whom I should run for. I felt pretty good about passing ‘Run for Christ’.
Since it was my first marathon I completely misjudged my pacing. The first half of the marathon was a personal best for me. Followed by the second half that was a personal worst. The last five km was a stumble to the finish line. With about 200 meters to go ‘run for Christ’ passed me looking fresh and happy. I whispered, “Fuelled by Satan” to myself and tried to beat him. However, just as in the Bible, good triumphed over evil.
I grew up in a small town north of Toronto. I started running on country roads and fell in love with long distance running when I was twelve years old. I loved (and still do) getting up just before the sun and going for a run in the country. Running in Canada you get everything from 30+°C heat in the summer and minus 20°C cold in the winter. I started challenging myself when I was 13 and would just run for hours on the weekends not really knowing the distances or pace but just seeing if I could run to the next town and back and then set a new challenge. I first heard about an Ironman when I read an article about it in Sports Illustrated when I was about 13 years old. At the time, an Ironman was a disorganized, crazy endurance challenge and I set my sights on doing one. Finally did my first Ironman more than ten years later in Canada out in British Columbia after completing several marathons and several smaller triathlons. I finished. I still remembered how exhausting that first one was. Although I’m not fast, I love the endurance aspect of sports. This led me to the world of ulra-marathons where I’ve done a 50 mile, 100KM and 100 mile race. A few years ago, my wife told me about these swimrun races in Scandanavia. Easily the toughest endurance event I’ve done because you need to not only have endurance but you have to be quick. Then there’s the challenge of nature, the cold and trails. The best thing about it is being a team with my wife and sharing the highs and the lows that a demanding endurance sport brings. One moment you’re telling each other to fuck off and the next you’re kissing at the finish line.something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
info (at) advenu.fi