Sunday, 5 February 2012

The curious case of the iPod runner

It seems the same characters turn up to every race. When I see these people, I get lost in thinking about the demographics of those who run. Whilst we are often unsurprised by those who are Lycra-clad and blatant non-runners, there appear to be a collective of people pushing the boundaries of what is decent to wear and do during their race outings. Helpfully, I'm going to give you what will hopefully be an insightful and thoughtful guide into these 'characters' so you are best-prepared for their presence in future events.

Where to start but with the inexperienced newbie who has seen Chariots of Fire the night before race-day, and happens to be so pent-up with pre-race testosterone that even his anti-running engineered Nike Airs are no barrier to first-time success at a road race. After all, the difference between first and last in a 5k is about 15-20 minutes, and what can you do in that interval? Not a lot. By that logic this hero shoots to the front, expecting his forty-odd year taper to pay off. By now the glass is half-empty and filled with lactic acid. But not to worry; stopping at walking is no issue in a 300-strong race. And no sir, there are no drinks stations at 150 metres. And even if there were, you'd still have 100 metres to go.

Another incumbent of the 2011-12 Office of Poor Training is the affectionately-known headphone-wearer. I'm not sure, but from my limited sample size of about four-thousand, it seems that anyone who races with iPods in particular has an intertwined sense of what I like to call maldirection. It's on par with a sat-nav telling you to drive across a canal to reach your destination, and some people do it without even thinking. What I am getting at is the sheer effort by some to zig-zag, corner-cut, and barge through because music makes them some sort of pseudo-god. It seems that getting to the finish line as soon as possible is more important than not being disqualified. The case of other runners being present is merely a curve-ball. Like a scene from Armageddon, if you're in this guy's path, then God help you.

If you've got to here, then you probably agree with what I have said thus far. Now is a good time for a break; it's been a pretty intense couple of paragraphs, and you've done well. If you're here for any other reason, you're probably one of the aforementioned runners. In which case: no, the rest of this post will not make you feel any better about yourself.

It's quite easy to search for flaws in things that seem relatively innocuous; a few times I've used what I refer to as my 'exponential moaning theory'. Simply put, the less there is to moan about, the more things we find that annoy us, and the worse they become. People who run alongside one another are fine examples of this. They can only be described as akin to wormholes in space; determined to throw you off-track, for no apparent reason. But this strain of antisocial runners has plumbed new depths - pace teams.

Now, pace teams are in theory a good idea, but they are sort of made redundant thanks to the people that use them. Generally, the group of people following the pacer are ridiculously optimistic, and flounder in the latter stages. We might have a need for fast lanes in races before long, just like the lorry overtakes lorry issue on motorways (Americans, read: highways, Germans: Autobahns). And don't even get me started on the pacers! How often do you see the faster pacer blow up and be overtaken by the others?

I must finish here I'm afraid, but should you want to suggest more or just complain, feel free to comment, e-mail, or tweet me. Happy running!

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