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A Few Public Service Announcements

November 11, 2013

Because of a souring weather forecast, I made a decision well before the start of the Fort Lauderdale 13.1 that I would not be racing–therefore, my pace was fairly relaxed from the early miles of the race, and my mind, which would have been engaged in strategy and pacing if I’d been racing, instead was free to wander, sightsee, and meander. All of which it did, for at least the first nine miles. The result? A long list of pet peeves, free running advice, and interesting insights, all of which I will now share with you, free of cost. I know. Life is good.

1. Line up in the chute based on how you expect to run, or, in fancy terms, “self-seed.” In biggish races, organizers will often have flags or signs with expected finishing times, making your job easy. In races without these, watch the other runners: if people around you are wearing shorty-shorts (“bun-huggers”) and have sub-5% body fat, it’s a pretty good bet they’re going to be taking this seriously. Listen to their chatter: runners in the chute tend to talk times. Or come right out and ask. Trust me: nothing will throw your race off more than starting too fast. When in doubt, line up further back than you think, especially in longer races. You’ll always feel better being the passer than the passee.

2. About the running bottoms that look like underwear with the words “eyes on the prize” written prominently across YOUR bottom, I have only one word: NO.

3. On-course music is fun, but it can throw off your pace. Don’t let the high school brass band push you to your mile-10 pace in mile 3. Stay on target. Their job is to energize the crowd. Your job is to run your race.

4. If you’re struggling and audibly moaning with every stride one-third of the distance in (that’s mile 1 in a 5k, mile 2 in a 10k, mile 4 in a half, or mile 9 in a marathon), it’s time to regroup. Walk. Get your breathing and pace back under control. To stubbornly hold to the same murderous pace, with so much of the race ahead of you, puts you in the crosshairs of disaster. The race is long, and the smart ones run to finish.

5. A word about passing. It’s an unavoidable part of racing, as it’s an unavoidable part of highway driving. Give other runners the courtesy of not stepping into their lane. If you’re coming up on someone in front of you, a simple “on your left,” is always kind. Unless you’re coming up on their right side.

6. And about water stops. If a runner misses the volunteer she was hoping to get water from, she will be eternally grateful if you grab a cup you didn’t need (since you’re running with a hydration pack, you animal, you!) and hand it to her.

7. To couples that run together: good on you! The matching his-and-her shirts? Adorable! Having said that, please remember that you’re like a semi on the highway: if you’re going to pass, you have to remember that you’re twice as wide as a regular runner. THERE ARE TWO OF YOU.

8. Also, if you’re going to run with your partner, either your romantic partner or your training partner, have a conversation well before the race about how you’re going to run. Are you going to stay together? What if one of you is having the day of his life? What if the other of you has to stop for the bathroom every other mile (hey, it happens)? Talk about this honestly in the days leading up to the race, and then don’t hold grudges on race day. Storming off at the post-race party because she finished two minutes ahead of you is petty, and it makes you look small.

9. Most runners think the race shirt should be earned before it’s worn. Put it in your gear bag and check it with race organizers. You shouldn’t be running the race in anything you haven’t thoroughly tested anyway. Race in a shirt you’ve trained in, then retrieve your bag from gear check and, having conquered the distance, wear your race shirt proudly. You’ve earned it!

10. Post-race, you may wear your medal all day. Just try not to hit anyone with it, unless it’s your training partner, who finished two minutes ahead of you and is gloating insufferably about it. In that case, I didn’t see anything.

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