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Open Letter To Race Directors From the Back of the Pack

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Dear Race Directors Everywhere,

Hi there, it’s Amanda, April and Patty. We run your races.

Can you hear us? We’re talking to you from the back of the pack. We shouldn’t have to yell because the cheering fans have long left. The bands are packing up as we go by. Heck, even the police cars are sparse and we don’t have to yell over any sirens.

We’ll try to speak up, but our throats are a little dry because we’re working HARD here. Got any water?

Oooohhh… about that. Yeah, we see the tables are packed up and the only water cups left are the few on the ground that the volunteers missed.

rodney-dangerfield
Amanda says:never mind the Gatorade, and cold water is a pipe dream. Good thing I bring my own.

We’re gonna talk to you about the back of the pack. Sure, sure, you read Heather’s account this week. And trust us, we’re GLAD you did. We loved what she wrote and appreciated her honesty and candor.  But she’s not one of US. She’s not the typical slower runner who is just trying to beat the course cut off time. She’s not scouting out courses with generous finish times months in advance to make sure she won’t get picked up.  She has the gift (that I’m sure she works hard for!) of speed that those of us in the back don’t have yet.

We’re not taking anything away from her and truth be told.

She didn’t have to say anything.  She was there as an invited Runner’s World blogger. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Gu, right?? But she spoke up in a very public manner and was heard.

Heather, we in the back say thank you.

However…

She’s not one of us.And that is really the point of this post and an issue that’s being overlooked in all this.

This issue isn’t new. It isn’t isolated to this Runner’s World race. And for farks sake, it isn’t fair!

It’s been voiced before. It’s been talked about in blogs before. Runners email and write letters to complain.

Crickets.

But then a faster runner speaks up and it’s like… whoooaaaa… maybe we should get on that.

ShenanigansPatty says: Y’all… I call Shenanigans on that crap.

Again- no disrespect to Heather. We believe Heather was the right person at the right time because she had the contacts to share this information. But you know…

Patty & April say:? Hey, Runner’s World, we were free this weekend. Just sayin’… call us!? We have blogs and run a little bit. Ahem.

We’d love to be invited to a race series. Frankly, Race Directors, our readers make up your race ranks. People that look like us and run slowly like us. But that doesn’t happen.

Because we are mid to back of the packers.

Look… it doesn’t even have to be US (though we are super fun and adorable!) Having been around a few “magical” races and series and seeing which bloggers do routinely get invited as guests it’s clear that the middle and back of the pack bloggers are woefully under represented.

We found this on the Runner’s World comment section and HOOO-AH… Jeremy nailed it.

Jeremy Farrington: (who blogs at The Under 5 Club) They didn’t want Back of the Pack runners; they wanted fast runners who, for whatever reason (usually scatological), were in the back. In other words, they didn’t live there, they were just visiting. And pooping in my backyard. With all due respect to Heather Gannoe, the Dispiriting Experience at the Back of the Pack article is written about a “front half of the pack runner” who was just visiting the back of the pack due to illness and 9.3 miles run the day before. Even in an article to reach out to Back of the Pack Runners, we are excluded. Perhaps this is something to consider to improve our experience.

^^^ DING DING DING^^^

Maybe some folks out there think it’s our fault for taking on more than we should. We should just “get faster” if we don’t like being back here.

Solid point.

You know what? We’re probably working on that. Hint: WE ARE WORKING ON THAT.

Amanda said: “I want to go slower” said no runner, ever. It’s hot out here, yo.

Back Amanda

Here’s the thing.

We ARE runners. We ARE paying the same race fees as the winners. And we aren’t alone. The fact is, there’s more of us in the back than there are front runners. Check the stats: there’s more runners racing and overall the fields are getting slower.

And how do we stay motivated and work on our speed?? By running more. And by running races. By paying fees and dreaming of that feeling of crossing the finish line and receiving the shiny bling that says we EFFIN’ DID IT.

April Space Coast
Speaking of paying those fees… do any of the back of the packers get refunds when a race runs out of water or food or the headliner band is packing up and leaving before they cross the finish?

Yeah. We don’t.

What we actually do is supplement the front and mid packers’ race experience with our money and often get a lesser race.

It’s true- you need us. If you think race fees are outrageous now (lookin’ at you, runDisney) just imagine the cost if Corrals I-P didn’t even exist at the Princess Half Marathon. Mind blown, right?

When a race packs up, closes the course, and basically leaves us out there unsupported while we are within the advertised time limits?

April says: I don’t get it. It’s confusing.

Patty says: Confusing?? It’s BS. Complete and total BS.

If the course is advertised to be open for 3:30 from the start then it should be open and fully supported for that time and any runners who fall behind should be picked up or checked on for safety. It’s not special treatment to support ALL the runners within the time limit advertised.

Come on, MAN!

We’ve had friends left in swamps during trail races, stuck without transportation back to their cars, and delayed on the course by traffic whizzing past them. Most of these stories are seasoned runners: but think about the runner who was out there for the first time. Is this how we want them to be introduced to our fabulous sport?? Just because they are slow?

Amanda says: Do you know how BORING it is to run slowly?

April says: yeah! I learned that at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Patty says: Heeeeyyy… you ran with ME at the Tinker Bell… did you just call me boring?? Good thing I don’t offend easily, friend. 😉

club 33 china
In respect to Runner’s World, we thank you for acknowledging Heather’s experience and vowing to take a look at things in your races. Side note: there’s a whole consumer group you are missing when you write your articles and review your products.  A 3-4 hour marathoner is VASTLY different than a 6-7 hour marathoner.? We need different fuel, different gear, different mental strategies, different training: because our races are different than the front. You could try to include us not only in your races but also in your magazine.

If you want to know what the back of the pack is really like from runners who live there, come run with us. We’d love it.

back of the packAmanda, April, & Patty

 

 

EDIT 6/13/2014 8:31am MT: Hard core crush on Heather. If you don’t follow her blog, do it.  Her follow up is just as awesome as her original post.

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Alana

Monday 8th of September 2014

I found your post after reading the Runners World article. Yesterday I had such a discouraging experience at a 5K race, it was my first race since being diagnosed with heart disease two years ago and I was so happy to have worked myself back to being healthy and being able to run a 5K. I finished in the last 15 runners in the entire pack, which is fine. What is not fine is that as I was finishing the race, people were packing up fuel stations and there was nobody there to direct me where to go, and I ended up leading the people behind me in the wrong direction for about 15 seconds before someone came out yelling "WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!" I burst into tears. The people behind me started yelling at the person that there was nobody left to direct us. I am going to be upset about that for a while I think, even though I finished the race.

Running Girl

Thursday 21st of August 2014

Great post. For me - All I ever wanted apart from finishing a race is to get the photographer to hang around and take my pic crossing the finish line but they are usually long gone...

Nancy Toby

Tuesday 19th of August 2014

Excellent piece. None of this should be news to any competent race director. See, for example, 2005: http://www.mouseplanet.com/7222/You_Cant_Go_the_Distance

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