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.
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!
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.
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