Of course the first article I turned to when I opened the July issue of Runner’s World was Dead Freaking Last.
Because it’s every new runner’s fear. I’m not a new runner anymore, but it’s also every slow runner’s fear — and I am a slow runner. It took years to lose that fear, to enter smaller races where I have a real chance of being DFL.
Of course I still don’t want to be DFL, and to date I haven’t been, but now I will enter races even if there’s a chance of being DFL. Which doesn’t stop me from studying the previous year’s results for that race & soothing myself with the fact that I probably won’t be DFL.
I expected to be blown away by this article. I expected to find my tribe.
And then it happened: some of the stories were about elite runners.
Of course elite runners have the same emotions any runner has. They may be born with the right physique & talent (or not), but they have to work hard and overcome many obstacles.
I get that.
And it still didn’t sit right with me. It just didn’t. I have my flame retardant suit on so feel free to go ahead and tell me that of course elite runners belonged in this article and it’s just a case of sour grapes on my part.
But . . . do elite runners have the experience of doing everything “right” and still find themselves stuck at a 13 mm for a long run pace? Do they run races where the awards are being given out while they’re still running the race? Do they come up to a water table on a hot day only to find there’s no water left – maybe even no table & volunteers left?
The editor’s letter referenced the experience and blog post of Heather Gannoe about her back of the pack experience in the 2014 Heartbreak Hill Half; I ran that race. I’m pretty darn sure I actually saw Heather cross the finish line. I remember the girls dancing across the finish line as we began making our way back to our hotel.
Except Heather is not a slow runner, she just had a very bad day & race.
The RW article is an inspiring article with many stories I’d never heard before. I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s a difference between being a runner who has a bad day and one that routinely brings up the back of the pack. Our experiences are just different, in a good and a bad way.
I once walked a half with a friend who was injured. The same half I’d run the year before. Obviously it took us quite a bit longer than it took me the previous year – even though the previous year that race was my very first half & I think actually does still stand as my worse finishing time (running).
And it was a different race even for me! Sometimes there really is a party going on back there! Or as I’ve heard people say, a race is like a mullet: business in the front, party in the back.
So don’t get me wrong, I get it: any runner is effected, for good or bad, by being DFL. Any runner struggles & triumphs.
I think what bothered me about this article was that I live at the BOTP (and occasionally the middle). Elite runners are usually just visiting.
Did you read that article? What do you think?