Running with Slowpokes

I have a piece in Slate this week about the state of marathon running.

“Today, the great majority of marathon runners set out simply to finish. That sets the bar so low that everyone comes out a winner. Big-city marathons these days feel more like circuses than races, with runners of variable skill levels—some outfitted in wacky costumes—crawling toward the finish line. The marathon has transformed from an elite athletic contest to something closer to sky diving or visiting the Grand Canyon. When a newbie marathoner crosses the finish line, he’s less likely to check his time than to shout, “Only 33 more things to do before I die!””

Some readers labeled me an elitist snob. You decide.


7 responses to “Running with Slowpokes

  1. Your comments offend me. I am a marathon runner!!! Middle of the pack runner. We train as hard as anyone else willing to put the time in to complete a marathon and achieve a personal goal. You should hang your running shoes up in the closest and retire!! When someone get so egotistical that running with someone slower than them offends them…. Perhaps professional help should be involved.

  2. Gabriel,
    I read your article in Slate after it was pointed out on the phedippedations podcast at I must say, I was disappointed. I think you’re flat out wrong and frankly, you come off as an cranky spoil sport who’s frustrated because other people are having more fun running than you are.

    I’ve run 10 marathons in ten years (including a PR and BQ of 3:18 at age 44) and although you may run faster than me (I believe you ran 2:56 in 2003), I don’t think that makes your accomplishments any more signifcant than mine or frankly anyone else’s. I’m sure you’re as proud of your finish times as I am of mine. And lets face it, neither one of us is breaking any records. I consider it a privelege and an honor to run and I have encouraged many others to do so over the years. I’m proud to participate in a sport that is as encouraging as it is of newcomers.

    I’ve met many of the world class marathon runners over the years, including Dick Beardsley, Bill Rodgers, Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway and Frank Shorter. They’re all very gracious and encouraging of runners of all skill and experience level. And not only are they faster than you are, they’ve got a lot more class.

    Until you rank with the elite runners, you owe runners everywhere an apology.

  3. you’ve convinced me. i’m quitting running immediately and going back to sitting on the couch.

    really, it’s a silly argument. If you don’t want to run with slowpokes, you need to run faster, or find races you have to qualify for. And i’m sorry you have to run past groups of runners in the park. crowded trails are very annoying.

  4. A fairly easy way to “appear” to be an expert on a subject is to be critical of it. It happens in many areas.
    You seem to have stumbled onto this technique.
    If I ever see another article with your name attached to it, I will read no further.
    “Great” job.

  5. I finished my most recent marathon (April 2007) in 2:55:57.

    I love the very atmosphere you decry. The fact that “sluggish wannabees” also took part in my last marathon had no practical impact on my race; I had a preferred starting position and was surrounded by other runners averaging 6:40 minute-miles.

    Average finish times may be down. But the number of finishers is way up, as is the number of finishers with eminently athetic times.

  6. I take such offense to your article and thankfully, I have never actually encountered another runner that shares your views or I probably would have given up in disgust. I am a “sluggish wannabe” as you put it. I started back in January as someone who couldn’t even run for a minute straight and am now in training for a half marathon, with visions of a full marathon in my future. It will surely take me at least 6 hours to finish a marathon (I hope to finish the half in just under 3 hours), but I have accomplished many things: lost weight, reduced my cholsterol, I have become fit, and have gained a realization that I can do anything I put my mind to. Now why would an “elite” runner such as yourself care that a slow-poke like me is taking my time way in the back of the pack? Well it is clear to me that you are obviously not having fun in the sport of running. If you were enjoying yourself, I don’t think you would be so focused on others. But it doesn’t matter what you think…I will cherish my own personal victories of finishing my races while ignoring snobs like you.

  7. fernando esteso

    Calling you snob is an understatement

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