Monday, March 03, 2008

Pecking Orders and Not-Races

Early last week mrp mentioned something about helping to pace his friend in a 30k. Mrp hasn't run seriously in quite some time so I'm always interested to see him push himself. I'd love for him to get back into training. His friend *M* is training for the marathon trials and was looking to average 6:20's for the 30k, starting around 6:30 and working down to 6:10's by the end. He was very worried that he wouldn't be able to keep that kind of pace for 18.6 miles so he suggested I enter the corresponding 15k and run the first lap with *M* and then he'd jump in for the second lap. I think at my peak last fall I could come in under an hour for a 15k, but right now I'm not so sure I'm in shape for it or that I particularly want to. I left things open to the possibility of backing out, but I more or less agreed to at least show up and stay with her as long as I could. I suppose if all hope of her achieving her goal depended on me I could come through.

Thank goodness it didn't, though. Mrp decided to run the entire race with her and *M* managed to talk her friend *K* into running the first 15k too. On top of that the course was pretty icy, the weather was frigid and windy and mrp said the course was about .25 miles long. Plus, it turned out I had a lovely tempo run that I would have missed out on and *M* didn't even end up pushing all that hard. In fact, by the time I finished my 15k I was just a few seconds behind her.

The way it panned out was, I awkwardly lined up with mrp, *M*, and *K* feeling like I didn't quite belong. Running has a weird social hierarchy. This was the first time I met *K* and I felt her look me up and down with this sort of "who are you?" kind of thing going on. Admittedly it could all be in my head as I did feel a little out of place as it was. But, I've noticed this before. No one talks about this, but just like in any other social arena, running has it's popular and unpopular people. It's mean girls and wannabes and everything in between. I know name droppers and people who's self-worth seems so hung up on their running that it's embarrassing to talk to them. I also know fast runners who won't give slow runners the time of day. At the same time, I know way more nice well-adjusted runners fast, slow, and everywhere in between.

I definitely have my faults and I don't mean to talk smack at all. It's just that sometimes I feel kind of bad about it. Even though in the rest of my life I am pretty well-adjusted sometimes I feel like the kid sitting by herself in the school cafeteria in my running life because I didn't use the right lingo or because I didn't run a time that magically acts as a ticket into the cool table. Sometimes I feel like the coolest kid in school too when people I've never met congratulate me for some race I ran months earlier or people seem strangely eager to meet me. Maybe it's because I'm relatively new to running and I'm figuring out the social structure so that's why I feel like a kid sometimes?

For me, I want running to be a break from pecking orders and social competition. I like to root for everyone and I try not to feel bad that this or that person did better than me, although I do feel bad sometimes when I feel like I didn't run hard enough to beat them. I admittedly don't always succeed. I admittedly have gotten caught up in the competition from time to time and have had to check myself. But 99.9% of the time I am happy for other people's running successes. Why not be? I did talk to *K* and her husband quite a bit after the race and they were super nice and I'm sure any look was inadvertant or unconscious (or again, possibly in my head). But this very minor incident got me thinking about all this other stuff so it was worth mentioning. Again, it is in no way meant as a negative against *K*!

Anyway, back to the race. The four of us went out together. I ran with them through the first mile or so and then we hit a narrow bike path that was covered in ice. So, we were all clustered in there and then the 5k runners started coming back through us and I got cut off from my group. By the time I got off the path onto the road, they were a good 15 seconds or so ahead of me and dropping the pace. I felt really good right where I was so I just relaxed and went with it. I was running alone and I was locked into a very comfortable 6:5x pace the entire way. I can't tell you how nice it felt. It was weird. By mile 3, I watched *K* break away from *M* and mrp. *K*'s fast! She went on for the 15k win.

By about 7 miles or so I started to feel a little tired, no maybe bored is the word I want here. I was ready to be done. I think I would have dialed it down a bit but the wind was starting to whip up and it was really cold. I could feel a stupid stitch building and by then I was entrenched in second place and still happy as a clam with my pace so why tempt fate at that point. So, I continued on dancing over the icy bike path again and then looking forward to the finish until I got there and they told me I had to run around the building once before heading into the shoot. This annoyed me so this is the only time I picked the pace up. I finished second behind *K* in 1:04 and change and felt good.

It's awkward to me when people compliment me on my race when I know I really didn't race. It's hard to accept a good job when I feel like I really didn't do the job they think I did. Part of it is pride, "I could really run a lot faster!" And part of it is that I don't deserve it, "I'm sorry but I didn't do the work to deserve your praise!" But yesterday I just said thanks and smiled and let myself be satisfied for once.

I saw *K* and asked her if she was going back out but she said she was done and going for some coffee. She invited me along but I wanted to head back out to see how mrp and *M* were doing. So, I jogged back out along the course, again having to go on that god-forsaken icy bike path! I headed out a little shy of 2.5 and hung out with a cop waiting in the freezing cold in my capri tights, long sleeve top, and dollar store stretch gloves. I kept telling him I was only going to wait one more minute but I couldn't go knowing they should be coming around the bend any second now. Finally, I saw them and could tell they gave up the initial quest. I said good bye to my cop buddy and jogged after them and they weren't going much faster than me by this point. I passed over that stupid bike path one last time and fought the nasty wind before meeting them at the finish. *M* felt crappy, and like I said, it wasn't the day for super-hero running so they decided to just complete the 30k and call it a day. She'll just try again at a 25k next weekend. She nuts! But in a good way, of course.

As for me, I'm just playing this week by ear because on Wednesday mrp and I are hitting the friendly skies on our way to Las Vegas! We're spending 3 days in Vegas and then road-tripping to spend about 2.5 days at the Grand Canyon. I've never been to either. I've always wanted to reenact the Brady Bunch episode where the kids + cousin Oliver ride burros to the bottom of the Canyon and hijinks ensue. I also can't wait for the people watching possibilites of Vegas. Imagine all the gawking and judgment I can pass. I know what you're thinking!


Chelle said...

Grand Canyon! I'm so jealous! Warning though, the place is totally addictive and you'll have to go back for more.

I love your social analysis of the racing scene. I always feel like I'm a bit of a interloper up there in the front of the race corrals. I know I've earned some status there by this point, but I still feel the eyes on me and I can hear ghostly whispers saying "she doesn't belong up here."

Did you see Meghan's next 100 miler goes right through your backyard?? That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but then again, for all I know, it really might!

Mindi said...

I also like the description of the running society. Here, there is a relatively small running scene, but overall it is very friendly. Competitive, yes, but people are all generally happy for each other's successes.

Have fun on your trip!!

Meghan said...

Oh, wow, I didn't know about all this hierarchical bantering that goes on/thought about in the bigger city racing scenes. I am just a clueless running redneck, aren't I?

In all seriousness, though, thanks for outlining what really goes on out there. That has got to be a little challenging at times.

Oh, and the Grand Canyon!? Ohmygoodness I know I was only there like 4 months ago but I'm so jealous. You'll lovelovelove it. Have a spectacular time! And, I second Chelle, once you go, it gets a little addictive and you want to keep going back!

Thanks for the lovely offer of help for my 100! Who knew I was picking a 100 that would got through the literal backyard of one of my blogging friends? I will email you more about it soon! How kind and thoughtful you are!

GP said...

Well, you've always been my prom queen in the running world. You were one of the first people to a) read my blog and b) assure me that I would finish my first race (St. Malachi... almost a year ago!).

While I don't really run in real running circles, I have noticed a pecking order and hierarchy in running. No one looks me up and down (not much to look at: I'm kind of short and don't pose a running threat), but I've seen it. I'm just glad there's someone like you to kick their butts ;-)

I didn't get a chance to comment on your 7 things, but quickly: 1) I failed maneuverability on my first test and cried until the cows drove home; 2) Crying is my biggest downfall and it always happens when I want to look and feel my toughest; I also get choked up during races when I see inspirational signs (or people); and 3) I used to be cool too... and in a few months I will be moving to the exact neighborhood in which I grew up. I can't lie: I dig the location... and there's nothing wrong with that ;-)

Have fun out West. We'll warm up NEOhio for your return.

Jim said...

I always laugh when I go to races and see all that attitude being thrown around. I don't get it. Makes me think less of them as a person that they're acting all better than everyone. Nice 15K by the way.

Joseph P. Wood said...

Let me guess as to the relative quiet on your blog:

1. You accumulated tons of debt to Vegas casino and now you & MRP are working a pyramid scheme to make the money back.

2. You pushed MRP into the Colorado.

Running on Something said...

I thought i was the only one who felt that way about pecking orders - good to know that i'm not the only one - and that it's not some repressed issues i have from junior high or something! ha!!