Monday, August 29, 2011

Follow up

Thanks to all the commenters on my last post. Trust me, I did not post the link to give it any undue attention. On the contrary, I simply wanted the readers of this blog to see it and to hear from me that I think it is mean.

Before I comment further, I want to congratulate Kilian on an amazing race and also give a shout out to Mike Foote, Nick Pedatella, Scott Jaime, Mike Wolfe, Hal Koerner, Roch Horton, Jack Pilla and Darcy Africa for great races this past weekend. And, I'd like to share my disappointment about the negative direction much of the conversation around the race is going.

I think, unfortunately, some aspects of ultrarunning are trending in a negative direction. For the last three years now we have been hearing the chorus of how the sport is changing. Most of this dialogue has centered around changes for the better (increased competition, greater exposure through sponsorship, etc...) and some for the worse (increased exclusivity in events with lotteries, environmental impact of big races, etc...) but few of the comments on the changes have crossed over into this trash talking area. That is what concerns me most about the derogatory nature of the previous post. It appears as though the friendly, civil, we're-all-in-this-together ethos that has long characterized the sport of ultrarunning is going away. I, for one, don't like it and call on all of us to reverse this trend.

Certainly, the competition in the sport is great and I love toeing the line at WS every year knowing how difficult it will be to fight through to the end. Am I best friends with all my fellow competitors? No. Are there certain people I take pleasure in finishing in front of? Absolutely. But, do I, at the end of the day, respect them? Certainly. Always.

A small little example from this past year's WS100: After Highway 49 I was surprised to come up on the 8th place runner who turned out to be Dave Mackey. Now, let's be clear, I have never been close to Dave Mackey toward the end of a race and it was pretty exciting to be passing him. Of course, it was not all that exciting for him so my lead over him was short lived. In fact, ten minutes after I passed him he passed me back and that was that. Did Dave want to beat me? Absolutely. Do we respect eachother? Undoubtedly. Was there any trash talk around this after the race? No. Dave is one of the classiest guys in the sport and he's been doing this for a long time. Who can forget his epic battle with Scott Jurek in the 2004 WS100? A battle, by the way, that was so intense, that in his post race speech Scott credited Dave with pushing him to the Course Record. That is dignified, civil, and respectful. The way it should be. The way it's always been. I know I sound old fashioned, but it's true.

Now, ever since my post a few years ago about whether or not dnf's should be considered in the Ultrarunner of the Year voting I have taken a bit of heat for being disrespectful of the dnf and several good natured posters seem to be eagerly awaiting my first dnf. For me, that's neither here nor there but it does inspire me every time I race. In addition, since the race at UTMB over the weekend, several people have asked me to comment on all the dnf's there. All I will say is that I believe those dnf's should be considered part of each runner's performance list in this year's UROY voting. However, given that I know none of the details of the reasons behind the dnf's I have no reason to judge. In fact, from my perspective, it is up to each runner to judge his/her performance in his/her own individual way and the rest of the world can take it or leave it. And, since I personally know many of the folks who dnf'd at UTMB, I can say with certainty that nobody is more disappointed about their dnf's than them. In that group you have, quite simply, some of the greatest American ultrarunners of this generation and I am sure we are all a bit disappointed that so many did not finish. I know many of us (I was literally glued to my phone all day following Meghan's posts on Twitter) were hoping for an American victory. It was not to be on this day. Knowing the toughness and resilience of many of those runners I can assure you they already have the date for the 2012 UTMB circled on their calendars and, in a way, the offensive post I posted on my blog will likely only add fuel to the American fire. A fire, quite frankly, that burns in each of us. Always has. Always will.


Matt said...

Many of my thoughts exactly.

"In fact, from my perspective, it is up to each runner to judge his/her performance in his/her own individual way and the rest of the world can take it or leave it."

However, I disagree with that. To each his own, but there will be criticism and commentary since many of these races aren't little Sunday morning trail runs, but large corporate sponsored races involving professional athletes. And awards like the UROY probably need to be redefined, in light of this growth and warranted criticism.

But in the end I agree with you that the competitive spirits of these American elites HAVE to be sparked and will. And things like that "flier" ought probably to just throw a little gasoline on the proverbial fire.

Good stuff, Andy. Stop-by Inside Trail for some more discourse.

Neal Gorman said...

I hear you. I'm sure all of your readers do. But I disagree. I don't think the tone is negative. I think overall the sport is super positive, in a very good place and hyper popular because it. Look at all of the cool comments on Nick Clark’s blog- they outweigh the negative ones by far. In my opinion, to put things in perspective, I simply think there are a few popular blogs out there where an even fewer number of jerks cast ignorant, incendiary statements causing all sorts of people to respond and thus feel as though there is some sort ‘negative tone’ because of it all. Fortunately, cowardly bullies and trolls, especially the anonymous ones, are easy to ignore. What we all ought to do is practice discipline and just ignore them. To hope people will stop being mean is like asking the sun not to set.

Edward Sandor said...

I think UTMB was Hal Koerner's most impressive finish this year. It was amazing that a two-time Western States winner walked it in for a 38-hour finish instead of DNF'ing when he dropped off the pace.

GZ said...

What AJW said. And Neal. 'Nuff said.

Burt said...

It is peculiar that the runners themselves compete passionately and show one another the utmost respect, yet those who sit on the sidelines, often in anonymity, are the ones who sling the the mud and make gutless claims.

"Conviction is a luxury of those sitting on the sidelines."

Johann G. Sigurdsson said...

AJW agree with your post and your statement on DNF's and as Edward said I was very impressed with Hal Koerner's impressive finish instead of taking a DNF. The UTMB as most Ultras celebrates finishing the course and I think we need to be more focused on that in this sport.