Thursday, July 31, 2008

Marathon "finishers"

Guess I wouldn't be a "valid" Houston running blog if I didn't post some comment about the Marathon's recent decision to not let anyone start early in order to finish by the time limit.

Let me start by saying I totally agree that NO registrant should be allowed on the course before the official start of the race (7 am). Furthermore, the Houston Marathon brought this upon themselves in my opinion by having "official" rules and "unofficial" rules. The Houston Marathon is the one who unofficially allowed a 5 am start for walkers. I don't recall whether or not it was acutally published on the website but everyone knows that there was a 5 am start and that if you started at 5 am, you were supposed to turn your bib around so the number doesn't show, you were supposed to not cross the mats, you were supposed to stay completely to the right, you were supposed to yield at water stations to runners, etc. I mean, heck, USA Fit made a business out of training walkers to walk this course in 7, 8 hours, all with the knowledge and sanction of the HM.

Most of what I've read on the blogs and on the boards, I agree with. And I think any reasonable person would agree with the decision to not allow registrants on the course before the race. And I think most agree that it was wrong for the HM to drop this policy change (yes, it may be unofficial policy but this is a policy change) on folks AFTER they have already registered and/or paid money for training programs, etc.

But here's where I disagree with some. Maybe disagree is too strong a word. Here's where I look at things a little differently than some. There are a lot of bloggers, commenters, and forumites out there who get their undies in a wad over whether or not someone who finishes 26.2 miles in 6:00:01 should get a medal or not or if they should get a finisher's shirt or not, or if they should even be allowed to cross under that sacred time clock and run through the chute and acutally enter the GRB. Are any of these things really what define a marathon? Do we really train for months and months, even more than a year, just for a pretty ribbon and our name on a web site? I finished my first marathon, the Houston Marathon in more than 6 and a half hours. I didn't care if I got a medal or not. I didn't care if I finished the race under the time clock or in the parking lot where my car was. I set a goal. I worked my ass off (literally) and I did what I set out to do. I did with my body what my mind thought was impossible. I made some great friends. I showed my kids (and myself) that with hard work, consistency, and determination you can do anything. I lost a bunch of weight. I got healthy in the process. I felt strong and great. Do we really want to make such a big issue about who gets a medal or not? Does it really matter? I say no.

So, I don't care if the HM stands out there till dark handing out medals to stragglers. They can just send it in the mail to every registrant for all I care. That's not why I would run a marathon. By the way, I did get a medal for my 6:48:30 finish and I did get a finisher's shirt thanks to the graciousness of the HM volunteers and staff who let me in as well as Matt, who just about beat the door down to get them to let me in. But when I recount my "glorious" day, I don't remember much about the medal and the shirt. I remember the sense of accomplishment. I remember resisting that irresistible desire to quit. I remember Rose leapfrogging all the way up Allen Parkway, running with me a little bit, then running back to her car only to meet me a little further up the course and then back to her car, all the way into downtown. I remember my friends and my family who were waiting for me at the finish. I remember SteveB meeting me a mile out on Rusk and running in with me...IN HIS SANDALS!!! I remember the training, the incredible encouragement I got from so many friends. I remember Steeeve, my coach, who encouraged me, challenged me, and never gave up on me. I remember it all and it's made a profound difference in how I view life and challenges. I'm grateful for the medal but really, that's not why I did it.

One more aside, Yes, it took me 6 hours and 48 minutes to finish but I did not know that going in. I honestly estimated that I could finish in just a little over 6 hours, maybe 6:03 to 6:10 at the latest. If I had known it was going to take me almost 7 hours, knowing there was a 6 hour time limit, I would not have attempted the race. I understood from the get go not to expect support and to not expect a medal or any swag and certainly not an official time posted on the website if I was going to be over 6 hours. I figured they would give us the extra chip time to get across but after that, I expected that the official 6 hour time limit would be strictly honored. So, I do have a problem with walkers/waddlers who KNOW for a fact that they can't finish in 6 hours. It's not safe. I know I'll never forget my first marathon but I'll tell you right now, I'll never finish one like that again. I'll know before I start that I'm going to finish in the time limit or I won't try.

That's my .02 cents.


Minken said...

I do not think that it was "wrong for the Houston Marathon to drop this policy change" at all. It is their event and their right to enforce any stated rules that they want to REGARDLESS of historic assumptions or protocol. In life shiz-nit happens - when you are younger it usually costs you a bloody nose; when you get older it usually costs a couple hundred bucks. So deal with it or learn to run!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Your words on a sense of accomplishment once you finish are universal. There is no time like the first time with a marathon. I find it shameful that some people have to drop their words of hateful wisdom and attitude (from a continent away, even) on anyone who even brings the subject up.

Anonymous said...

Minken's comments do not minimize Vic's accomplishment or any other runner's accomplishments. For some reason walkers are all bent out shape because there are rules and they must follow them. No where is it stated that you could start the Houston marathon where. The unofficial rule was start early, where your bib backwards, stay out of people and traffic's way and do not cross the finish line. That was not followed. If 6 hours is not enough time for you, find a walker friendly event. How dare people make light of a runners attempt to break 3 hours as trivial. So we only have two catagories the winner and the walkers...The organizers have gone out of their way to put together a world class event. From an indoor area before and after the race, increased cap and plenty of support on the course. Those that have signed up under the assumption that they can walk this race should/will be taken care of. Anonymous, grow a set and then you can be part of the discussion.
No early starts and no headphones. You know the rules, play by them

Steve Bezner said...

Well put Minken & Steve S.

You don't like the rules, great, go find another race or create your own. More power to you.

Hey Vic, are you on or off the wagon? The Striders are in full force again out in West Houston.

Minken said...

My "deal with it or learn to run" comment was NOT at all aimed at Vic - it was aimed at the walkers who feel that the marathon has screwed them over. I fully respect Vic and applaud his accomplishments. I do NOT applaud whiny people who feel that the marathon has done them wrong because they have decided to enforce their rules.

Vic even states in his original blog "So, I DO have a problem with walkers/waddlers who KNOW for a fact that they can't finish in 6 hours". It appears to me that Vic and I see eye-to-eye on this issue as well.

And anon, you at least acknowledged my comment as "wisdom", so I really do not see what the problem is (lol). (And I may be a continent away, but I do not hide behind my keyboard when I have something to say.)

Vic said...

Wow, very cool!!! A little banter going on on the blog. I like it.

So, anon, I must have missed something. I didn't see any hateful words from Minken. And if you knew Minken at all, you'd know that. I count him a friend as well as an incredibly experienced and accomplished athlete. And those are the least of his good traits. Plus, he brought sexy back.

And SteveS said it well. HM gave the walkers a chance but the unofficial rules were not followed and that is the root of the problem. The Furples and the Purples even have a hard time on training runs staying two abreast. I've heard reports even now, after the HM has made its statement not allowing an early start for walkers for safety reasons, that Fitters are still walking 5 and 6 abreast, blocking traffic. I think in a way, they've done it to themselves.

SteveB, yes, I'm on the wagon. Still riding.

Tiny Frog - Kenyan Way said...

Me and those Fitters are about to go head to head if they dont start abiding by the etiquette rules while out on their training 'runs' on the weekend...

Anonymous said...

Yikes...A Houston Fitter versus a frog. I think the frog is going to get stepped on.

Pat said...

Vic, It's nice to see you out there running. I, too, had some really low mileage months after running my marathon. I can give you a dozen reasons why, but the truth is I took my eye off the prize. I'm back running and know I'm far from where I was. It's almost like starting over, but I love a fight and I'll get back up to marathon distances. Good luck to you. I think of you everytime I see a Houston Marathon ad in RWOL.