Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Old-Timer's View of Today's Road Racing Scene

The following is an excerpt from an article written in Ultrarunning magazine many years ago by Gary Cantrell. In it he reflects on the changes he's observed in the road racing scene over the last few decades. I find Cantrell's observations insightful and humourous. What he wrote led me to think about how my view of runners and running has changed over the years. After the excerpt I will offer a few comments.

"There was a time,only a few decades ago, when those of us in the tiny running community used to smugly tell one another that running would never be popular---No one will be willing to work this hard but us---The running boom of the 70's disspelled that myth and changed the face of our sport.It seemed that the cozy, insider atmosphere evaporated and we were absorbed into the huge mass of newcomers.As the 90's kicked in, an excursion into sub-marathon racing is as disturbing as a visit to our childhood home. Once we were the masters of the sport, dispensing our hard-earned wisdom to eager novices. These days,the old-time runners are peculiarities, outcasts among the denizens of the sport we once called our own. The same people who found acceptance into the running community required nothing more than showing up and giving it a shot,now huddle in cliques with a dress code for acceptance. Battered racing flats that once bespoke a foot warrior who had paid his dues now draw stares of derision from those who spend over a dollar a mile on footwear. Faded shorts and moth-eaten t-shirts are ostracized among the tight little circles of polyester peacocks. Maybe I am too touchy but it is a little irritating for my baggy shorts to draw snickers from men who come to race in their wife's underwear.
It's ironic when I consider the running scene today that it has come to pass that the real running community of the 90's is just as small and just as isolated as that of the 60's.There can be no question that today's running is sterile and poor by comparison with that of the "good old days" Growth and progress simply do not always go hand and hand."
I understand what Cantrell is getting at here. He sees a running scene that has evolved and has lost some of the qualities that made it unique.Personally,I can't take going to road races that make me feel as if I'm in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Also,like Cantrell,I would not be comfortable wearing some of the "fashions" and accessories being worn in running circles these days. But, on a related note,years ago I used to think that if you weren't training like me then you were probably not a "real runner." It's funny how age changes the way you think, often times for the better. I believe anybody who runs regularly,be it at a 5 minute or 15 minute per mile pace,is worthy and legitimate as a runner.I remember what Percy Cerutty said after some of his athletes lead the charge up the sand dunes at Portsea, "You may run faster than me but never harder."

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