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30 Oct 2009

10k followup – I just wanted to post some updated information about the Nike Human Race we ran last Saturday. I wrote on Monday that Hyunjin and I had run with “19,998 of our closest friends.” Well, it turns out that we don’t actually have that many friends—including us, 12,225 people ran the 10k on Saturday. The limit for sign-ups was 20,000, and I know that limit was reached because some of Hyunjin’s students who tried to sign up couldn’t because the race was full. This means that nearly 8,000 people—almost a third of the participants—were no shows. That fact in and of itself is pretty astounding to me. Of course, you always have to expect no shows for one reason or another, but a third of all those who signed up? That’s ridiculous.

“I can’t bring myself to say that it is a bad thing that people are getting out and exercising.”

But Korea still had the second largest number of participants. Mexico City was first, with over 13,000 runners. Korea’s average time was one hour, eleven minutes, and four seconds. This made Hyunjin happy, because it meant she beat the average time by nearly three minutes. I have to say it is impressive, considering the fact that she hardly ran at all before the race (she spent most of the time swimming).

I was also able to check my official time, which turned out to be 54:12, three seconds faster than the time I got from my own watch (I guess I hit start a little early and stop a little late). This means that, officially, I was two minutes and eight seconds faster this year than I was last year. In reality, I was only eight seconds faster, but I figured I might as well get something good out of being screwed over by a faulty chip last year.

So that does it for race info. There’s something else I want to mention today, though. One of my students, who prides herself on being a cyber-stalker (I just think of her as a faithful reader), sent me a link to a recent article in the New York Times: Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon? If you’re too lazy to read the whole thing (which would be kind of ironic, actually), the article in a nutshell deals with the conflict between slow runners and hard-core runners. I had speculated in my last entry (as well as last year’s race entry) that SRS (Slow Runner Syndrome) might be limited to 10k races, which pretty much anyone can run. At the very least, the article showed me that SRS is not limited to 10k races, plaguing even full marathons as well. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or not, to be honest.

The thing is, I can see both sides of the story here. When John Bingham says, “What I’ve been trying to do is promote the activity of running to an entire generation of people,” I can understand where he’s coming from. At the same time, I sympathize with Adrienne Wald when she says, “It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours.” Maybe it’s because I am neither a slow-runner nor a hard-core runner, but somewhere in the middle. I would like to think that I am closer to the hard-core end of the spectrum, but I’m not delusional. I don’t belong in the same class as people who run marathons regularly and at good speeds (at the pace I ran on Saturday, I would finish a marathon in under four hours, but I have a long way to go before I can dream of that). At the same time, I definitely do not belong with the people who think that stopping to walk every ten minutes is a valid race tactic.

When we left the starting line on Saturday, the emcee for the starting ceremonies cheered us on and said, “Finish the race! Be sure to finish the race!” Except that what he said has a more complex meaning in Korean. In Korean, the key word here is “wanju,” and in general it is rendered as “to finish (a race).” But if you break the word down, you see that it doesn’t just mean “finish.” The character “wan (θΗ)” means “complete,” while the character “ju (ρΛ)” means “to run,” and the word is defined in the dictionary as “to run the whole distance to the goal.” So, to be more precise, what our emcee was urging us to do was “run the whole distance.” As I mentioned in my last entry, a lot of people had no intention of doing that. Or maybe they did, but then started running and realized that it wasn’t going to be as easy as they thought it would be. I do get the impression that a lot of the people who ran had never run 10k before.

It probably sounds like I’m leaning toward Adrienne Wald’s side of the argument, but while I have to admit that slow runners can be somewhat of a nuisance, let’s face it: we’re not running a full marathon here. We’re running 10k, and if people want to come out and take it easy, they should be able to do that. Also, as John Bingham says, maybe this is their introduction to running. The younger generation is probably more comfortable in front of a computer than out running, and if this gets them out pounding the pavement, how can that be anything but a good thing?

I might feel differently if I saw the same number of people walking in a full marathon, but I can’t bring myself to say that it is a bad thing that people are getting out and exercising. I don’t think that’s what Bingham’s opponents are saying, either. I think he might be unfairly misrepresenting hard-core runners when he says: “The complainers are just a bunch of ornery, grumpy people who want the marathon all to themselves and don’t want the slower runners.” My impression from reading the article is that most runners don’t have a problem with people running slowly or even walking—they simply have a problem with those people claiming that they “ran a marathon.” After all the effort the dedicated runners put in to get to where they are, I think it miffs them that some slow runner comes along and gets the same shirt and medal for participating in the race that they do, even though they might have taken twice the time.

I can understand this, but it’s hard to comment any further, seeing as I have never run a marathon myself. I would like to think that my own personal achievement would be enough, and that it wouldn’t bother me that some people slow run or even walk marathons. When it comes to the 10k races, even though I have been surprised at the number of people who walk, and it can be difficult to run around them, I can’t say that I have been offended by their presence. But, like I said, that’s 10k, not a marathon.

I guess I’ll just have to run a marathon and see how it feels.

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