taking a break from taper madness to comment on some of the latest controversy in the running world…
So, the winner of this past weekend’s Nike Women’s Marathon…well, really wasn’t. Why, you ask? Even though she ran the fastest time of all the women, the race organizers couldn’t count her as the winner as she did not start with the “elite runners” who had the 20-minute head start. And yeah, people were outraged to hear of this-LetsRun.com even said they “got more emails on this article yesterday than any article we can remember.” And this comes on the heels of the man who ran the 4th fastest time in Chicago not being counted as such, or receiving 4th-place prize money because-surprise-he didn’t start with the elites. (Apparently the organizers turned down his request to be in the elite start? Not entirely sure. But apparently, the organizers did pay him prize money after the fact…)
Happens once, it’s a coincidence. Happens twice in 2 weeks, well maybe they oughta rethink these “elite starts”-or at the very least the reasoning for them. For marathons like Boston and NYC-I believe they gave the elite women a head start to spotlight them more, make sure their race doesn’t get lost among the men…though yes, it is possible that a fast female who starts with the main pack could finish pretty highly and yes, even beat most of those women (doubt one would steal the victory, but hey stranger things have happened…) But seriously, what was the reasoning for it in Chicago? And for the SF Nike marathon? Couldn’t they just start them up front without the head start…let the masses have a chance to “race” the elites…when it comes down to it, it really should be one race.
So, this article also sparked some lively discussion regarding clock vs. net times…as quite a few races have gone to net times being the “official time,” as races get more and more crowded and the start time differential gets larger and larger…there’s ways to keep people who shouldn’t be lined up in front from doing so and using net time is one of them. (Like in the NYRR races, all age group awards used to be based on clock time, points race scoring used to be calculated by finishing place by clock time.) And I know there are those that say going by net time really takes the “racing” out of a race and turns it into an individual time trial.
My thoughts? Trying to see it through a front-runner’s eyes-I do understand that reasoning. You want to know who exactly you are racing, and if you knew that the runner who finished 10 seconds behind you on the clock but just ahead of you on net time, that could have pushed you to work a little harder. And what if the actual person who breaks the tape isn’t the one with the fastest time? (I do think that has happened before, FWIW.)
However-changing the view, looking at it through my eyes, a mid-packer…I’m realistic, I will never be a 70+% AGer, I will never be in contention to win a race-for me, the competition is me against the clock. When going for a personal best time, sometimes the net time does make a difference, every second, even minute, counts. Take the Philly Distance Run for example, I was lined up appropriately and it took me over a minute to cross-had that counted instead of my net time, I would have missed out on a PR. Yeah, I know, I can take a net time with my watch. But if that were the case, what would my true time for that race have been? Why should I be penalized because I’m slower and I did the right thing and not gotten in the way of runners who rightfully deserved to line up in front of me? And how about what’s going on now with the wave starts for NYC? Do we really want everyone pushing to get into wave 1, even if they don’t belong there? We’re very lucky to have the chip technology now…use it to the fullest extent, I say!!
So I guess for this latter issue, there really isn’t one right answer. But what I think does need to be remembered is that racing-and pushing for a personal best time-happens at ALL levels, not just the 70+% AG group. Just because we ain’t in contention for a win, doesn’t mean it’s just a “fun run” for us…