In one of the many dumb ass moments I have had in my life, after yet another craptastic marathon, I staggered to a grinding halt during a recovery run and growled: “I am done racing. I quit. I am retired.” One of my running partners scoffed and smacked me in back of the head with his left shoe. As I found my way back to my feet, I began to chase that bastard for the few remaining miles. By the time we finished our run I had forgotten why the hell I was running after him but I still remembered why I was mad enough to want to quit racing.
A few days earlier I shelled out over $100.00 to abuse myself for 26.2 miles. I told you I have had some dumb ass moments. At least 260 of them. Within the first mile of this race course I was wondering where the hell I was supposed to go. Sure, any runner can remember each of the 112 turns along a 26 mile course. Really? How about course markers that are visible. Using side-walk chalk from your kids Crayola bucket is insufficient. And, unless it’s a trail race, placing a pile of stones with a stick pointing in the direction of the course is simply unacceptable. If either of these are used much past mile 18 you can bet your ass I am gonna miss them entirely. Have you run 18 miles? Do you really want to scrutinize every corner looking for a freaking twig? By mile 3 I felt like I needed the armed services to guide me through the twists and turns. I sent up a signal flare and turned on my homing beacon.
After 4 miles I realized I no longer cared about the course as I had not yet seen a water station. For this race it seems I forgot my trusty burro who usually hauls my water. WATER STOPS! Who needs ‘em. Seriously, just kick me in the nuts. We are no longer in the age of “self supported” races. We have moved on. Call it progress or not, it is what runners have come to expect. If you are going to charge us $100.00 freaking dollars to abuse ourselves, you damn well better have adequate water stops. Once every 4 miles in a marathon is NOT adequate. Let’s start with every two miles. It’s nice to know that if we bonk, crash, smack headlong into a herd of nomadic buffaloes that help is only a mile away. At five miles I saw a box with a jug of water and some plastic cups on it. An oasis. Right here! I began to pray. I was thankful for water and something to pour water into. But plastic? Good grief. I love pinching these things while running and sipping. I have earned flesh-wounds on my face from the jagged edges of cracked plastic cups. And maybe I am a prima-donna, but can we man these water stops with at least one air-breathing biped that doesn’t mind looking out for the runners. Using someone who has run a race and has seen a water stop might be a novel idea, too.
Although I was dehydrated, a bit delirious and despite the worst markings of any course I have ran, I managed to cross the finish line without getting lost. The distance on my watch read 27.1 miles. I gasped. Certified? My ass. I can see two-tenths of a mile but nine-tenths is a total measurement hatchet job. I am always being asked what is the distance of a marathon. If I answered based on my races I would probably have at least 200 different answers. Let’s just say it is somewhere between 24.4 and 28.7 miles. That should cover those RDs who “certify” their course with a freaking golf cart or wooden ruler.
I realize that I could just stop racing but I love running and I hope that my cynicism and critical comments will be read by many and passed on to RD’s. I have sent these comments to RD’s and still find myself in the middle of the race with a sinking feeling either from being dehydrated without sign or sound of a water stop or from being completely lost in the middle of a round-a-bout with nary a runner, course-marker, or race official to be found.
I think runners simply hope RDs deliver on the product for which we are (over)paying. I hope with my race reports and blogs that things might change for the better to make running more than a race director just earning a paycheck. I offer criticism and solutions! RUN MORE!
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