- This was printed in March of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 93rd installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
Does unsportsmanlike conduct exist in running?
I guess it can exist in any sport. Runners can verbally abuse and taunt one another before
and during a race, just as football or baseball players can. I’ve just never witnessed it.
Even in my days of running high school cross country, no one was rude to each other.
Sure, there may have been some elbow nudging between a few competitors establishing
their positions on the course, but it never got out of hand.
I was surprised Sunday, after joining the running community a little more than two years
ago, to experience my first blatant encounter with unsportsmanlike conduct.
It didn’t happen before or during the Heavenly Half Marathon — a gorgeous local race
down 13.1 miles of Auberry Road — it came shortly after I crossed the finish line.
I was asked what my finish time had been, to which I responded 1 hour and 28 minutes,
and then I was called a name that rhymes with ‘rich.”
I was the 39th person — and third woman — to finish that race, and I did it fair and
square. I have completed countless workouts before dawn, week after week, to build up
my endurance and speed.
My coach says, “PRs (personal records) happen during training, not on race day.” So I
train my butt off. Hill repeats, speed workouts, easy runs, long runs, trail runs, runs in
freezing temperatures, runs during downpours — I’ve done it all, faithfully.
My team lives by the motto “On race day, leave it all on the course.” On Sunday I left it
all in Auberry. (If you’ve seen me limping around town, you know it’s the truth.)
At any given race, you can only give it your all and hope that your all is faster than the
next person’s all. That day, I happened to be faster than someone who thought I shouldn’t
be, and they decided I should be called a derogatory name for being that fast.
I’m not sorry for winning. I’m sorry that there are sore losers in our sport. Runners in
general have more integrity and respect than that.
Running is the only sport I can think of in which people cheer for everyone, regardless of
which team they belong to.
In my cross country days, my high school team cheered for the leaders — who usually
weren’t our teammates — because we just loved to see a good race. The heart that
runners show while sprinting to a finish line just makes you want to root for them. Who
cares what color their jersey is?
Then there were the runners with tear-streaked faces, the ones alternating between
walking and running, the ones limping. They deserved to be cheered for because no
matter how much pain they were in, they hadn’t given up.
I see that same compassion in the local distance running community. Teams do exist. We
call ourselves Wascallys, Bad News Bears, T-100s, Warriors, Gladiators, DARs, TNTs,
Roadhogz and more. But we remember — we must remember — that we are all Runners.
We all started somewhere, we’ll only get better if we support each other, and we all
deserve praise, not putdowns.
Excuse me while I hobble off of my soapbox.