October 25, 2013

Racing the Crowds

There are three 50-mile races this weekend, each within 50 miles of Lawrence. If one were so inclined, since two of the races are on Saturday, and one on Sunday, it would be possible to do two of them. No one is doing that, however, for the not inconsequential reason that it would be insane, even by the lofty standards of utlra-folks. Heartland, of course, was two weeks ago. A week before that was Kansas' largest 50K. One week after Heartland was another nearby trail 50K, which took place the same day as the Kansas City Marathon.

So there rises to meet this increased demand for long races an increased number of long races. So maneuvers the supposed invisible hand. Adam Smith's child, all grown up, working hard.

But while we have an increased number of racers and races, I'm worried, somewhat, that we'll have a decrease in actual racing. That is, with more races to do, fields will be diluted, and the area's better runners will see less and less of one another.

Of course, this is only a concern if you view races as competitive endeavors in a sense that is perhaps becoming anachronistic, that is, as an arena where people try to best one another. What we're growing towards is an emphasis on competing exclusively with one's self, as a means to... some end that I've not yet found, but nonetheless continue to pursue.

These notions are not inherently contradictory, of course. No native of Eastern Kansas was going to compete with the visiting Kenyans to win the Kansas City Marathon; they were, rather, attempting to run faster than they ever had. Heartland, for me, was about bending the trajectory that began there three years ago in a positive direction. Everyone has their goals, and they are all valid. The person racing against the cutoffs is racing every bit as much as those at the front. Really.


As both a "fan" and member of the local running community, I'd like to see certain people race; and yes, these people are typically running at the front (or off of it). I'd like to be included in those races, frankly, and see if I could hang. I'd rather that, and get my ass handed to me, than win races and wonder how so-and-so might have done, if they weren't running such-and-such instead. (Of course, if losing badly is the goal, I've got a 10K and half marathon coming up in the next month, both of which routinely attract some very fast people. I'll get my wish.)

Anyway, we'll see. The area's most competitive ultra is a 50K in February - not a busy time for other races. It tends to attract a strong local field, as well as some fast folks from Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa. I'll probably get my ass kicked there as well, which wouldn't be the worst thing. But that's a ways off. Something to worry about another time, or more likely, something not worth worrying about at all. It's just running, guys. And that's what I'm going to go do now. Peace.

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