Frustrations From A Back-Of-The-Pack Runner

There is no shame in being a “back-of-the-pack” runner. Just being out there is a sign of strength. However, as a back-of-the-packer, I’ve witnessed and experienced several things that make me wonder why the heck I bother to run at all. During a recent race, as I ran in the back, swearing in my head about how frustrating running was that day, I came up with a list of things that bug me.

Getting passed by little kids

While running a 5K through Amish country, I was passed by a 6-year-old boy in full Amish dress, besides the shoes. Mind you, his running shoes were way cooler than mine. I was also outpaced by Amish girls running in full-length dresses. Little kids in long sleeves and dresses shouldn’t be able to outrun me when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Competing against dilly-dalliers

That same weekend, I finished a half marathon behind a group of women who stopped and took pictures with every farm animal along the course. They must have been city girls to be so fascinated by cows and horses. I kept passing them when they stopped, yet somehow they managed to beat me to the finish line.

Running slower than runners with wheels

A woman pushing a twin baby stroller can run faster than me. I guess pushing the stroller makes her stronger. I’ve also been passed by someone pushing a wheelchair with an adult rider. While I admire them for being out running and the strength it takes to push a wheelchair for miles, I thought that running unencumbered would give me an advantage. I guess not.

Shortage of supplies

Some races aren’t adequately prepared for all participants. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to an aid station that has run out of replenishment. During a race on a particularly hot and humid day, organizers had left chests full of ice on the route to help us keep cool. They were empty by the time I got to them because all of the faster runners had reached them first. And we in the back were left to sweat.

Cut-off times

Some longer races don’t advertise a cut-off time, yet seem frustrated by those of us who finish too slowly. I ran a 10-mile race where I finished second to last, and the finish line was almost completely dismantled before I ever got there. It’s demoralizing to have everyone and everything, including the refreshments, packed up before I can even catch my breath and grab a banana!

Comments

While running, I’ve had people yell, “Why are you so slow?” But until you are out running with me, I don’t want to hear it. It makes me want to direct certain gestures towards them that shouldn’t be made around small children.

I enjoy being a runner, but at times it can be very demoralizing to be a back-of-the-packer. Although questioning our abilities as athletes is normal, I’ve learned that we don’t have to let it rule our lives. I’ve also learned that my only real competition is myself.

RELATED: If You Run Slow, Who Cares?

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