Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Competition is Dying
I have thought twice already tonight about blogging about this, but I have decided to go for it. I have not been known too often to watch what I say when I feel passionately about something, so here it goes.
I was speaking with a dear friend of mine today- probably one of the best competitors of his time. Not because he has won several triathlons, but because he embodies the total definition of a competitor. I believe that he would compete with you in pretty much anything- if you challenged him to a game of "let's see who could change the channel on the TV faster," he would do it and kick your ass doing it. He is a man after my own heart, and I admire him for that.
I, myself, am also a true competitor. One of the best coaches that I have ever had the pleasure of actually working under always said to practice competing in everything you do. Competition has the connotation sometimes of being some type of "negative" or "unfair" action that can get unfriendly, or potentially harmful, to the opponent who happens to lose. If you are not a sore loser, this is not generally the case. But, in most of my cases, I have not felt a loser. A true competitor always feels a sense of winning and is raring to try again.
A terrible event in running history went down this last weekend as many people know- a man died during one of the most famous marathons in this country- the Chicago Marathon. It was pretty hot- 89 degrees, terribly humid, which made for a grueling race. Fairly unseasonable weather-wise, but still- a race. A race in which everyone should have prepared- no matter the conditions. Herein lies my problem about this blog. I DON'T WANT TO SEEM UNSENSITIVE TO THIS MAN WHO HAS PASSED. I truly feel for him and his family/friends. But...
Sport these days has become very politically correct. There are already several lawyers ready to take this case to court and say that this marathon should not have been run on this day because of the conditions. Now- mind you- the race directors, trying to make just a few bucks, let in close to 40,000 people into this marathon. Yes, that many people. Odds are that if you take 40,000 people in a day and put money on it that 1 person in the group might die that day, I bet it could just happen- I mean, what are the odds? The man that died ended up (they have found) having a hereditary heart problem. Could have been exacerbated by the run, but still...
Back to the 40,000 people they let in. Now, several people sign up to compete in what they consider their 1st and last Marathon, just to say that they have done it. Not many people even run a sub 4-hour marathon anymore- people are doing it just to complete it. Good for them- I say. Honestly, good for them. But, what happened to those days where a 3:15 or 3:30 would be a goal time- at least for a woman in my AG. Pretty sure that the women who ran the LA Marathon this last year (seeing that they only had about 9 women pros race) were not nearly as competitive as they were even 10 years ago.
Now, I speak from experience. I did my first Marathon on May 14th, 2003. The Innagural Fargo North Dakota Marathon. Yes, Fargo. I got there on May 13th, 56 degrees and sunny. Beautiful. Woke up the next morning- 20 degrees F and snow on the ground. Wind chills reaching ZERO degrees. No cancelling of the race. A few people with hypothermia, but I adjusted my pace for the conditions and ran my race. Know your capabilities. I still ran a sub 3:50 in sub-zero temps in sub-perfect conditions. I was smart. I ran my race. I was trained. I am an athlete.
Kona- the Championship of Triathlon- has temps that surpass this 89 degrees every year. I mean, crazy humid and hot as hell. An Ironman distance- not just a marathon. Not to mention the winds...300 people will visit the med tent this weekend, out of only 1500 that are allowed to race (yes, you actually have to qualify for Kona). 300 out of 40,000 marathon runners in Chicago- 1 death- not too bad, considering the odds. (once again, not being insensitive, just stating the facts).
Swims get cancelled all the time now if the waves get above 3 feet or if the current is too strong. What happened to the days where it was, "finish the swim, or you can't race". No cancelling swims, "back in the day" (early-mid '80s..even into the 90s I am sure). I mean, I want fair competition. I don't want a cancelled swim. I don't care how cold the water is. Get in and swim, you wuss. Prepare for the worst during your training. Take personal responsibility.
People are so damn sensitive these days and feel a need to be absolutely politically correct. Everyone has a lawyer to protect them in the case that they are not taken care of correctly, regardless of how much they have prepared or trained. Watch out, race directors. In your quest to make a few bucks in a race you are letting in a wave of peeps who want nothing more to rip you a new one had you created a poor race experience for them. I read a quote once that went something like this..."If you can please a triathlete, you have got it made." That is the case- thank God I am not that anal.
Whew, that felt good.
Now, if you are racing to finish a race, and that is your goal, congratulations. I am seriously happy for you. But, as you race more and get better, your confidence will increase and that spark of competitive edge might come to the surface. Embrace it, for I fear that the expectations for the athletes of today are becoming lower simply because we have to round down to the lowest common denominator. Don't be that LCD. Compete because you want do to well- do more than just finish. And, don't get mad when the weather is not as you wanted or expected. After all, races are not perfect and neither are you.
Shut up and Race!
Have a great week,
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