Sunday, August 19, 2012
Originally Published in the Newsletter of the Prospect Park Track Club.
I am not talking about how to run faster or further. This is about how to be a better citizen in the racing community.
I have been racing for a while (not as long as many of you, I am sure) and I have observed many
changes in what people think is acceptable behavior at a race.
RFD technology (Chips, D-tags, B-tags) has changed the way people approach the starting
line. Back in the day, there used to be a lot of pushing and shoving at the starting line. That was not
always so nice. If you started 25 feet behind the line, you had to run 25 more feet in that race, but more
importantly if you started 30 seconds after the leaders, you had to run 30 seconds faster than they were
running to win an award. This might not sound so bad, but remember, awards are based on age and
gender, so a 60-year old had the same motivation to be at the starting line as the 25-year olds. Needless
to say, this got a little messy in a large race. Now, the stress of bring at the starting line when the gun
goes off is gone, but some people don’t care when they start. Hey, people! This is a race! Just because
the last race you ran had 80,000 people in it and starting corrals spread out across two boroughs doesn’t
mean you can be drinking coffee two blocks from the start in a volunteer, community-based race. Most
races start on time and when the Race Director says GO! There is no excuse to be late.
Since my kids were born I carry my phone when I run. It is small and I don’t want to worry
about it in baggage check. But I don’t use it. However, too many times I have had to run around
someone who was yakking on their phone (or texting). Not only are they a hazard to other people on the
course, but they are insulting them. A race is an athletic competition; when I am running as fast as I can
and get passed by someone who is texting, it hurts.
Giant charities have also gotten involved in racing. This is good and bad. Yes, it is good that
more money is gong to charity. However, sometimes the concept of racing has been thrown out the
window. Entire offices, schools or religious groups use a specific race as a fundraising tool. They
often “run” the race as a unit, often in jeans and holding Starbucks cups. I know the front of the pack
would not be the front with out the back of the pack, but this is getting ridiculous. The front of the pack
should not have to say excuse me to the back of the pack.
I don’t like to use headphones, but I can see how others might enjoy them when running.
However, you have to be able to hear instructions from race officials. The vast majority of course
marshals are volunteers and it is not fair to make them chase you because you did not hear them
say, “Turn here.” It is even worse when a Race Director or Medic says, “Are you OK?” and you cannot
hear them. People are giving up their morning to make your race experience better, the least you can do
is be able to hear them.
At the edge of comical are the actions that have been observed at water stations. When you are
done with your cup, throw it in a pail, or drop it on the ground. But do not put half a cup of water back
on the table. Think about it.
As a race director I have seen many first time racers get a little “overdramatic” at the finish
line. It is OK to finish your fist 5K in 30 minutes or more. But please don’t run the last 50 yards like a
maniac and collapse on the finish line. There is still someone behind you and if you are flopping around
like a fish in the timing mats, you are just in the way.
I hope this short essay will start many conversations. Maybe so of the runners that are new to our sport
will enjoy their experience more.
And another thing; Just because you are wearing a chip that tracks your time that does not mean you do
not have to make your bib visible on the front, not on the back, of your clothes. Why not on the back?
Because your body can block the electronic timing from recording your finishing time.*. Never mind
that sometimes technology fails and there are people using those bibs to keep track of the order and time
of racers crossing the finish line. But you are in a race, the difference between someone running a race
and someone who is not is that they are wearing a number on their shirt.
*This pertains to B chips that are part of a bib. Otherwise, it identifies a runner as newbie, someone
who isn’t in the know and is not cool.