Friday, June 20, 2008

Tortoise vs. Hare: A Closer Look

History is written by the winners. It doesn’t make it accurate but that’s the way it is. It’s the main reason native Americans are described as “savages”. Al Gore is a crybaby. And Fonzi gets Pinky Tuscadero while the Mallachi Brothers are spineless Demolition Derby cheaters.

I was reading the fable The Tortoise and the Hare to my kids the other day. They were tiring of our 6th reading of The Ultramarathon Man so I thought, what the hell, I’ll throw ‘em a bone. I had a busy day of chores planned for them the next day anyhow and I’d need them fresh with well rested backs and quads. The car doesn’t change its own oil.

You remember this story. This is the one that tries to pass off the ridiculous notion that 'slow and steady' wins the race. What a load of crap. It’s time to correct this insidious communist propaganda that has been influencing young minds for generations. Here’s the story below if you’ve forgotten the details:

“Once upon a time there was a hare who, boasting how he could run faster than
anyone else, was forever teasing tortoise for its slowness. Then one day, the
irate tortoise answered back: "Who do you think you are? There's no denying
you're swift, but even you can be beaten!" The hare squealed with laughter.

"Beaten in a race? By whom? Not you, surely! I bet there's nobody
in the world that can win against me, I'm so speedy. Now, why don't you try?"

Annoyed by such bragging, the tortoise accepted the challenge. A
course was planned, and the next day at dawn they stood at the starting line.
The hare yawned sleepily as the meek tortoise trudged slowly off. When the hare
saw how painfully slow his rival was, he decided, half asleep on his feet, to
have a quick nap. "Take your time!" he said. "I'll have forty winks and catch up
with you in a minute."

The hare woke with a start from a fitful sleep and gazed round, looking for the tortoise. But the creature was only a short distance away, having barely covered a third of the course. Breathing a sigh of relief, the hare decided he might as well have breakfast too, and off he went to munch some cabbages he had noticed in a nearby field. But the heavy meal and the hot sun made his eyelids droop. With a careless glance at the tortoise, now halfway along the course, he decided to have another snooze before flashing past the winning post. And smiling at the thought of the look on the tortoise's face when it saw the hare speed by, he fell fast asleep and was soon snoring happily. The sun started to sink, below the horizon, and the tortoise, who had been plodding towards the winning post since morning, was scarcely a yard from the finish. At that very point, the hare woke with a jolt. He could see the tortoise a speck in the distance and away he dashed. He leapt and bounded at a great rate, his tongue lolling, and gasping for breath. Just a little more and he'd be first at the finish. But the hare's last leap was just too late, for the
tortoise had beaten him to the winning post. Poor hare! Tired and in disgrace,
he slumped down beside the tortoise who was silently smiling at

"Slowly does it every time!" he said.”

Let’s examine what’s wrong with this. First, “slowly” was not what “did it.” In fact, had the tortoise picked his pace up a bit, it wouldn’t have been nearly as close as it was. He’s moping along dragging his lazy ass shell around while the rabbit is sleeping. Sleeping! C’mon, dude, he could wake at any time. Get your shell in gear! Can you imagine how frustrated the spectators must have been? “Um, tortoise, now’s your chance. The hare is sleeping. Can you pick it up a bit? You’re a 10,000 to 1 long shot and I put a buck on you as a flyer. I’ve seen spilled molasses move quicker than you.”

Clearly, the hare had A.D.D. It’s a race. Why are you off eating and sleeping? It’s not like it’s more impressive to win a close race rather than blowing him away. Is it too much to ask for you to concentrate on the task at hand for a few seconds?? Apparently, it was.

We need to remember, again, that history is written by the winners. The Tortoise won. How? He’s clearly an inferior, poorly trained runner compared to the Hare despite having the advantage of a CamelBak for hydration. Are we getting the full story here?

I don’t think so. There’s some compelling evidence within the accepted history to suggest some funny business took place.

First, why is the Tortoise so convinced he can beat the Hare? He readily admits the Hare is swift and he must know his own training isn’t up to snuff. So, what gives? The Hare is described as volunteering for a nap as the Tortoise trudged along. Did he volunteer? Or was he drugged?

After awaking, the Hare supposedly decides that he still has time to fritter away – thereby making the race even that much more unnecessarily close- so he bounds off for some breakfast. This seems highly suspicious. We all know that eating during a race lends itself to cramping and other G.I. issues . Surely, the race experienced Hare is aware of this. Instead, did the Hare, perhaps, receive a Kerrigan thump on the knees from guys like these?

Whyyyyy? Whyyyy?

And no mention of calve cramping (my nemesis), a hamstring injury, or dehydration? Could the Hare have suffered any of these that impacted his ability to race?

Through it all, the Hare still manages a photo finish. The boastful Tortoise proceeds to gloat at the finish as if he knew all along he’d win. What a cocky jerk…and certainly indicative of a tainted race.

So, while history records the Tortoise as a modest, underdog champion, the Hare is remembered as a braggart idiot who received his comeuppance (+5).

Instead of valuable lessons like:

1. Don’t get into a fight if you are over matched.
2. Don’t show up unprepared to run.
3. Don’t rely on outside events to influence the results.
4. Turtles are assholes.

We are stuck with:

1. Being slow wins races against fast people.
2. Always snarkily predict victory before the contest.
3. Taunt the loser after winning.
4. Hares are assholes.

Something’s rotten with this tale. The Tortoise clearly cheated. History should judge him accordingly.

However, if I’m to accept the results of this “contest” as is, I’m inspired to pick up the phone and challenge Ryan Hall mano a mano to a marathon.

Even he can be beaten right?

Thanks for the unrealistic expectations Tortoise!

Thanks for nothing.

Happy trails.


Check out:

Ovens2Betsy provided one of the single funniest running related links I have read in awhile. check it out.

Good Luck to Viper on his Summer Solstice Challenge ultra. It's been nice knowing you.

Vanilla at Half-Fast provides a truly disturbing image NOT meant to dissuade anyone from marathoning.

The Marathon Mama employs more very funny and sly wit when discussing her Dirty Little Secret.


Limbo Run Thursday was a success:

5 miles = 7:04, 6:53, 6:49, 6:42, 6:18!!


Sarah said...

Regarding "that picture" which Vanilla posted (ew): Ironically, one of the ads accompanying most of my Gmail messages this week (most of which include the word "running," imagine that) is "How To Prevent Runner's Diarrhea."

Oh, I guess I should clarify: most of my emails include the words "running" and "poop." Yeah, that about sums me up. Damn you, Google AdSense! You have peered into the inner depths of my soul!

Xenia said...

Well done on the successful Limbo run!

Maybe the tortoise in the story WAS a TMNT, but, to play to stereotypes, they dulled down the story and made the hare out to be more of a pompous ass. It's possible.

Kristina said...

Today while running I saw both the tortoise and the hare flattened in the road. Looks like the pick-up truck won the race in that case. (and thanks for the link)

Marcy said...

Whooooaaa homie, I'm going to have to start taking a closer look at the book "Everyone Poops" wonder what kind of meaning is in there :P

Viper said...

I see you've finally reached 100 points. Thank goodness!

Turtles are definitely cheaters. I was on a trail last weekend and was nearly tripped by one acting all slow and steady in the middle of path. Asshole.

Thanks for the luck!

Kevin said...

Maybe the Hare had the same problem that guy did in the photo.

Brianna said...

Never trust a turtle.

Never trust an author who types her blog posts while children pull on her elbows . . . she's bound to have type-os galore . . . Thanks for catching that glaring "son" error (pun intended). Remarkably, the fire was NOT his doing! :)

Amanda said...

So maybe if I just show up at races from now on and say listen up losers I am totally going to win and I'm going to go slow, then they will allo suddenly be so terrified that they will lose their focus and hence I will when. If not then your rules may apply and I will need to be prepared to fight. very interesting, I will consider this during my run tomorrow.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...


I've never thought of it that way. I always just took away that slow and steady finished the race and figured the hare basically quit because he wanted a PR and realized that it wasn't gonna' happen. So the hare decides "screw this. i'm takin' a nap" And the tortoise just trudges along not knowing the he's both first and last in this race.
and the animals all cheer for tortoise because even though they know his time sucks, they had to give the first place award to someone because it was a charity event and the news crew was waiting for a photo at the finish line. Otherwise, they would have packed it up and gone home.


Chad Aaron Sayban said...

Now that is investigative reporting at its finest. You need your own talk show now. If that looker Gretta Van Sustran can get a gig (ack!) you certainly can, too.

sRod said...

I just came off a week of jury duty and the whole time I was reading your post all I could think of was the defense attorney trying to poke holes in the prosecution's case. Ever consider law?

Crabby McSlacker said...

Being of a turtlish disposition myself, I agree that there's something fishy about this whole tale.

Turtles don't enter races to begin with. What's the hurry? I'm thinking the "turtle" was really a mentally-disturbed hare who donned a fake shell in order to mess with everyone. Real turtles have better things to do like... like... well, turtles must do SOMETHING besides sit there.

Anyway, great investigative reporting and cool links!

Ms. V. said...

Hares are assholes. Heh. Yes, yes. They are.

MizFit said...

yeo. turtles are content to sum themselves and spread salmonella (a point which I think shoulda been in that tale as well)


Jeff said...

Maybe the hare forgot to fill his steroid prescription! What about that possibility? Huh, huh?

5 points for comeuppance? C'mon, maybe worth 2.