In defence of the back of the pack

Netty Edwards, I hear you.

As a two-time marathoner and 14 time half marathoner who, on a really excellent day, cracks an 11:30/mile, I totally get your 12:00/mile pace.

Why the race director did what he did was really awful.

Now, before you go trolling me here is what I really think: The people who created the Spen 20 were insanely foolish not to communicate a cut-off time.  Their thought process was completely and utterly archaic.

And that is because for a long time, even today, lots of race runners assume to run you must be “fast.”  I’ve never joined a running club for this reason, as the last time I checked into one they stated you had to run a 10:00/mile.

There is some strange elitist notion within some organisations that a per minute time of 10:00/mile or greater somehow makes you worthy of the title of runner, and anything slower makes you, I don’t know, a leisure jogger?

It very much felt that way when I started running over ten years ago.  It very much felt defeatist that even though I crossed the exact same finish line as the faster runners I was somehow less worthy.  Even with stated cut-off times water would be lacking, goodie bags few (if at all), and the enthusiasm that the volunteers once had would be vacant, if at all present.

But, that has changed in spades.

I joined running when there was a new movement just starting.  In that, to run, you ran.  You didn’t have to be super fast, you just needed to finish, and races started to make provisions for this.  People of all shapes and sizes were beginning to be welcome on the course – and in places like Disney the entire movement turned into weekend-long celebrations.  (Oh, and it’s going to start going world wide soon!)

Once a lone finisher in the back of the pack I have friends now.  We’re not the most graceful thing on two legs, but we know we can achieve the end game and we make it there.  Plus, when you are slow and in a well managed race the finish is luxurious.  You aren’t fighting for a photo, standing in long lines for your race bag, or squeezing in at a changing area.

I’m hoping this whole Netty Edwards thing is a one-off.  I’m hoping that, with this event, communication improves and the elitist mindset dies off.  I even know that, in some cities, movements for “all inclusive” running groups are starting to take hold.

We, the back of the pack, have begun to surge forward.

Long may we walk/run.

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