2.08.2006

The problem with elitism

ORN: Running later tonight, finally recovered. It will be hamster, and easy, but I will once again be lacing up my running shoes.

During some daily surfing, I followed some linkage to this post. After reading it, I decided to hunt down the various posts and stories which had spawned it. To spare any but the curious the time, I will attempt to condense the whole affair:
  • Coverage of the Walt Disney marathon sucks, devoting almost as much space to this man as it did to the winner of the men's masters division.
  • Some people complain about the coverage (understandably so), and slam the slow-paced results of the hapless runner above.
  • Hapless runner responds, defending himself poorly and mentions that he got a grant (which few runners are lucky enough to recieve - I'd love to pick up some free running gear, with someone else picking up the tab.)
  • Whole affair can be summed up with "I'd rather be a snob than a lemming."

Okay, I'll admit that anything that happens at the Happiest Most Expensive Place on Earth is going to be more a money-making scheme than a competitive race. Disney, which no one has ever accused of missing a chance to make money, has realized (correctly) that a less-competitive race will draw more people, who will bring their families, stay for a week, and eat hamburgers for $6 each, while slurping from $4 cups. So, consequently, news coverage of the event isn't going to be of the highest calibre.

And, I will concede that the article was poorly worded. The winners should have been all listed together, and then a bridge (along the lines of "The Disney marathon also attracts more casual runners, such as . . . ") linking the results of a few casual runners.

So, why do I think that it is a bad thing (in general) to slam the efforts of slow runners? Aside from being one (more below), anything which inspires more people to get out and get moving is a good thing, for running and for the population in general. I will readily concede that Hapless Runner (he knows who he is) defended himself poorly. But the point remains that even the efforts of the slow should be recognized - not everyone can run a marathon in three hours or less. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't try.

After all, when I am coming in on the finish line, pushing as hard as I can, heart pumping, head down and as close to a sprint as I can manage, I am not competing for first. Or second. Or third, or even three hundred. I'm competing against someone else for that coveted 1122 spot in a 10,000 person field. If I don't get 1122, and wind up with 1124, there is no difference. It doesn't determine if I get a trophy, or a medal, or recognition. But it matters to me, and so, I fight for that place.

As I said above, I'm not a fast runner. I probably never will be. When I was six, I got hit by a car, and suffered a compound-complex spiral fracture. The easiest way to get an equivalent fracture is to clamp down your leg, just above the ankle and just below the knee, so that your leg is immobilized. (The knee clamp should be a little looser - your knee will need to move for this demonstration.) Now, attach a suitable large pipe wrench to your shin, about halfway between the two clamps. Get it good and tight; really grip those bones. Now - spin that pipe wrench around. Snap that shin in a couple places, and wrench themuscles from the leg. Your knee should rip across the back - that's expected. Make sure the fractured bones of the shin poke through the flesh, and be sure to crush a lot of blood vessels.

Originally, they were talking about amputation. Then, it got upgraded to "keeping the limb, but don't expect much," and finally to "hopefully he can run, though he probably won't." I can (and do) run, but my knee and lower leg are basically rebuilt. My shin has almost no tactile sensation, and I generally am aware of a problem only when it's past the "gentle warning" stage, and goes all the way to "potentially crippling injury" stage. The simple act of standing, if I take stock, has a nice, gentle, low-grade pain coming from my knee at all times. Walking hurts, though not much worse. Running hurts too - but I managed cross-country in high school (never well - I couldn't break 18 for three miles), and run now.

I'm not asking for praises - but it would be nice if some of the elites could simply say "Good effort" and leave it at that. No snarky comments, no guffaws, no laughter as those of us in the middle, back (or even those of us who manage 106/568 in our age/gender division).

2 Comments:

Blogger cameron the awesome said...

man that was long

11:49 PM  
Blogger Duncan Larkin said...

Since you linked to me, I'm going to respond. I'm not going to guffaw or use a snarky comment. I'll try to be professional but energetic. I'll just say that the whole thing escalated when Tony jumped on Kevin's website, dropped a snob bomb and left. No argument. No debate--just a few words about how we don't understand him (I do b/c I was big time overweight). This has nothing to do with his time or his place in the race. Since I have traded pejorative for pejorative (ie. snob vs lemming), and used the word 'lemming.' I get the right to comment about who a lemming is. Lemmings are animals that run off cliffs for some odd reason. They follow the pack, they conform and they die. That's my point. Having run Disney before, I've noticed the similarities between the Disney racers and these creatures. The comment has nothing to do with running ability. If you are referring to me and fellow runners that you linked to as 'elites,' and you ask us to just say 'good effort' and be done with it. That's not going to happen. First, I'm not elite. I'm not even subelite. Second, success is all relative--what a true cliche' right? If you are happy with your race, you went into it competitively and you tried your best -- good effort. But I am passionate about the sorry state of running in this country as well as the horrendous obesity problem we have, so when I see a million sad lemmings 'trying-their-darndest' to run 6 hour marathons while draping 20 pound hunks of landfill material around their necks at the end, beaming like they just solved world peace and backslapping Mickey and then jumping on websites to moan about it, I'm not going to say 'good effort' and 'leave it at that.' I'm going to call them a lemming and piss them off to get their butts out on the pavement at 2am to run a 4 hour marathon or a Boston Qualifier and to motivate their fat neighbor to do the same. If you doubt my sincerity and suspect me of elitism, go look at my links on my website and my 'blog friends' and check their times. None of them are happy with their times and all of them refuse to jump off the cliff.

8:05 PM  

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