Running: beginners; my beginning and how things have changed.

Workout notes: 3 easy walking miles. That’s it. Later today: more with the Building Steam group (probably about 3)

Yes, it is “two week vacation from training time” and instead of doing something useful, I’ll babble about running and endurance sports.

In today’s paper, I read about a “I’ve Decided” “first 5K” which is designed for beginners. How different things are now-a-days.

One big difference:


Yes, I started running in the “cotton” era; even nylon running shorts were new.

What drove home my age was a conversation I had with a beginning runner: there was some small country race that timed things the old fashioned way (pull tags) and the new runner didn’t understand how a race could be timed if there was no computer chip! Imagine a race in which someone had a stop watch, yelled your time, and YOU were responsible for writing your name and time on a numbered card that you were given as you crossed the finish line. The number on the card corresponded to your order as you crossed the finish line; the winner had card “1”, the tenth place finisher had card “10”, the 34’th had card “34”, etc.

Yes, I am a fan of the computer chip or the “chip in the race bib” system. I love that innovation. But I do remember a simpler time, and those old “card races” were fine with me.

But the difference I’ll talk about today was cultural.


This is me back in August, 1980. I was nearing the finish of the Severn River 10 mile run; I ran 1:21:45 (8xx out of 3000+ finishers). This was my first public race and I didn’t know what to expect.
But what I remember most was talking to the more experienced runners afterward; I remember one “old man” (30’s?) telling me “ok, that is an 8:10 mile; that will get you 3:3x in your first marathon”..and I thought that he was nuts!

But…well, that December I ran the Maryland Marathon in 3:33 (1054 out of 2229 males; the median male time was 3:36)

And to me, that was part of the fun. The same thing held with racewalking; I remember drawing some red cards during a race and having the other walkers give me tips. The same holds for swimming (getting tips from the better swimmers), weight lifting, ultra walking, etc.

But: that is part of my personality. Before my first race, I had run 1 mile time trials for football, 3 mile time trials for crew; I had gotten my butt kicked on the football field, wrestling mat and gotten hit in the mouth in boxing (PE). I expected anything worthwhile to be hard, and I expected to have a lot of improving to do. That is just how it rolled in that era.

But now: things are very different.

We have gyms that are devoted to, well, not making people feel bad or intimidated.

And so, the median times at road races have slowed a great deal. Some have conjectured that this is due to there being many more outlets for the more intense person (adventure races, trail races, ultra marathons, cross fit, off road triathlons etc.). In fact, in a recent New York Times, there was an article about a 200 mile “off road” bike race which said:

For the last 10 years, the hardiest of cyclists have been flocking to some of the country’s most remote roads to tackle 200 miles of gravel. The single-day race is called Dirty Kanza, a test of both mental and physical endurance, and part of an explosion of extreme-distance events testing the limits of the human body.

“Now, everybody’s grandmother runs a marathon,” said Rebecca Rusch, a professional cyclist whose affinity for extreme-distance races has earned her the nickname the Queen of Pain.

“I really think the point of endurance cycling is sort of that craving for a little bit of adventure,” said Rusch, who has won the women’s category of Dirty Kanza three straight years.

And they have a point.

Sure, *I* run the roads and I enjoy seeing how “fast” (less glacial?) I can “run” a 5K. But if I were just starting out, I am not so sure that running on the roads would have had much appeal. Much of what I see out there are somewhat dimply middle aged to old people waddling along at 10-14 minutes per mile and bragging about their “finishing bling”. As a young person, I would have thought “THAT PERSON is a road runner…YUCK…”

But the current atmosphere serves me well; I can enter most shorter races and finish “within the bell curve” and, in some larger marathons (or “walker friendly marathons”), even participate in a longer race without the sag wagon breathing down my neck. The current atmosphere in road races is much more accommodating to the older person with a stiff back and multiple knee operations. 🙂 But it might not be so attractive to the younger, fitter more intense person who wants to kick butt.

Ok, time to do end this post and do something more useful. 🙂

May 27, 2015 - Posted by | running, walking | , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: