Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sat, 2 Oct 2004 23:04:59 -0400

Don't Ask Me


(rerun from October 1998 RW)

My favorite part of going on the road to talk to runners is listening to them. That is, hearing the questions that runners ask of me at the end of my speeches.

I don't have all the answers, or even a majority of them, but pondering the unanswerable is still a worthwhile exercise. While flying to one appearance, I filled the time by listing questions I can't answer.

Why, if people who run beyond 26.2 miles are called "ultramarathoners," aren't those who run less called "submarathoners"? Why, if we have triathletes and duathletes, aren't running specialists called "monoathletes"?

Why are older runners called "masters," a term that denotes skill and not age? Why does the public persist in calling runners the despised J-word, which is like referring to skiers as "sliders" or golfers as "swingers"?

Why haven't we coined a better name than "half-marathon," the only one known as a portion of another distance and by implication inferior to it? Why can't we replace the half-marathon with a 20K, and maybe call it a "double-10" or "ultra-10"?

Why do we race by kilometers but still take splits and average our pace by miles, which sound slower and come up less often than the K's? Why do we train by miles when kilometers would add up faster and sound like greater totals?

Why can't we find a classier term for walking breaks than "run/walk" -- such as "interval racing" or "Gallowalks"? Why, if walking breaks are so beneficial, do runners still run in circles while waiting for stoplights to change?

Why do so few races fall into the great gap between the half-marathon and marathon, when these in-between races are great training for either event? Why does cross-country remain a sport for school kids, when adult legs need the break from the roads more than young legs do?

Why do watches give times in hundredth-seconds when official times always round up to the nearest full second in off-track races? Why, if watches split times into hundredths, do runners talk of their own times by rounding them down to the lower full minute?

Why is your favorite shoe the one that just disappeared from the marketplace because it wasn't popular enough? Why do so many of today's finest running shoes come with the fat, round laces that don't stay tied?

Why don't more running shorts come with bigger pockets for carrying gel and bar snacks? Why do overdressed runners not remember that they'll warm up during the run and then end up with extras clothes draped around their waist?

Why do runners who profess a belief in "listen to your body" take pain-killers to quiet the body's messages? Why does the body lie about how good or bad it feels right before the run, or especially the race, begins?

Why, if male athletes are "jocks," aren't women athletes named for an item of apparel? Why, if women are equal to men in the races, are the men's results almost always listed first in news reports?

Why are the too-fast starters and the late-race wall-hitters at races nearly always men? Why, if women have their Races for the Cure for breast cancer, don't men have a similarly popular series for fighting their equivalent disease, prostate cancer?

Why, if "to finish is to win," do finishers risk bodily harm to themselves and others to move up from 1002nd to 1001st place? Why, if "everyone's a winner," do races still keep score and give prizes to a few of the winners?


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