Thursday, July 16, 2009

Starting Line Etiquette For Dummies

I think most of you probably know what to do at a race starting corral. There’s a few unwritten rules that most grasp naturally without any help from flow charts and powerpoint presentations. I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to all of you other dummies out there. The adults who still collect beanie babies and laugh hysterically at Disney channel sitcoms. In other words, the idiots getting in my way – and everyone else’s way – but more importantly in my way.

The mechanics of a race start are pretty simple really. It shouldn’t cause such confusion and douchetardation. I was reminded how difficult this process is for some during my last 5k. I actually witnessed a minor assault and a physical threat within 5 seconds after the gun sounded.

There we were hoppin’ and boppin’ around with nervous energy at the start line. I was still checking myself out in my moisture wicking pocket mirror to make sure I looked fan-tastic. (note: I did, obvs.) I knew I’d finish in the 40-50 overall place range based on past experience so I stepped into the starting corrals with roughly 40 runners ahead of me. The gun sounds. The crowd surges forward. I’m whacked in the back by another runner causing me, in turn, to push into the runner in front of me. The guy next to me lunges forward. Or, at least, his torso did. His legs were still running directly next to me. The runner behind him gave him a hard WWF style forearm shiver to the middle of the back causing him to double over. The assailant passes his victim and tosses a “get out of the way of the 6 minute milers, dude” over his shoulder as he careens down the road. The injured party regains his posture and shouts back “hey asshole, I’ll see you at the finish and kick your ass.”

I knew there would be no ass kicking. The assaulted runner was clearly in the wrong starting group. He faded quickly and, most likely, absorbed a few more bruises and torso benders as the trailing 1500 runners slammed into him. The other guy would be in Gatorade nirvana and heading home before Dummy crossed the finish.

He was a 10 minute miler. At best. This is not a commentary on how fast you run a 5k. I think it’s great to see an ever growing number of folks participating in races just for the experience, just for fun, or simply for some social interaction. You can only do a 5k in 40 minutes? Wonderful! You are out there doing it which is more than most.

Just don’t stand at the front of the race pack.

Here’s some easy to remember Do’s and Don’ts in case you are a bit stupid and aren’t picking up on the unwritten rules.

Do:

- Arrive early.
- Discard warm-up gear and water bottles.
- Slot yourself with a pace appropriate group.
- Listen for gun. Run smoothly out of the chute just as your pre-race bowel movement did colon polyp free.

Don’t:

- Be someone else’s colon polyp. Do your best to start with the correct pace group.
- Get yourself trampled. If you are beginning runner or over 6 minute miler and you notice everyone around you wearing a high school racing singlet, you are about to be trampled. Fair warning.
- Form a human barrier. This is not an obstacle course. Do not stand shoulder to shoulder with your three running buddies until everyone has settled into pace. You might be chatting, laughing and having a grand ole time but, trust me, everyone else hates you and wants to knock one or more of you down by crashing through your human wall.
- Wait until the gun goes off before deciding to jettison the sweat shirts and water bottles.
- Refuse to hold my moisture wicking mirror so that I can’t go through my pre-race affirmations and flex posing. That’s just rude.

I tend to get a bit wordy so I’ll boil it down even further for you so there’s absolutely no confusion:

(1.) Don’t be a race clogging colon polyp.
(2.) Don’t get in my way (unless you are assigned to hold my mirror.)


I guess what I’m trying to say is:

(1.) Get out of my way or I’ll hit you in the back again.

Is that clearer?

Yes? Good. We shouldn’t have that trouble anymore. But, if you do, you know what to do. Get those forearms ready and strike early (and often). Then you better run like hell because, who knows, the person you hit might be a well trained negative splitter.

Happy trails.

39 comments:

Vava said...

So that's what accounts for those pesky 22 seconds. I knew you'd get under 18:00! Congratulations! I think next race you should line up right in front and not worry about making sure that the 40-50 runners (who you predict will finish ahead of you). Clearly they are not lining up properly either.

Vava said...

Way to not finish a sentence there...

Jamoosh said...

Fits right in line with my Man-Laws of Running coming this Friday. Specifically, if you start at the front, you better finish at the front. Nuff said.

FYI: Word Verification = "unsitrod" which I believe is a Latin/Spanish hybrid loosely meaning "run over at the start of a 5K." Used in a sentence: Nitmos chuckled loudly as the obviously out of shape runner was unsitrod and fell to the ground, bloodying up his elbows and thigh. Unfortunately, said runner was holding Nitmos' mirror...

Sun Runner said...

"to make sure I looked fan-tastic"

I think you mean MAN-tastic!

Does "race-clogging polyp" include people who plan on walking the entire race yet stand near the front with all the sub-6:00 speedsters? Those are the ones who drive me the MOST insane.

X-Country2 said...

My golden rule is if you're wearing your race number ON YOUR BACK, you shouldn't be in front of me.

B.o.B. said...

Whoa Nitmos. Is violence really the answer?

Seriously though I agree with you whole heartedly. I know my place and therefore stay in the proper corral.

But if someone were to elbow me, it's on. Finish line sminish line. It's go time.

Vanilla said...

Generally you can tell by what people are wearing. The guy wearing Vans should not be starting in front of me.

Morgan said...

AMEN!!!!!!!!!

As always, absolutely hilarious post.

P.S. I never doubted for one second you ever look anything more than fantastic when you run. :)

Velma said...

I did catch myself laughing at iCarly - just trying to fit in with the kids.

You forgot, make sure to start at the end of the line if you are doing a walk/run strategy. The worst is when 3 runners (usually women in matching garb) stop suddenly in a race to walk. Move to the side people!

Irene said...

Add people holding hands to the list... I ran a night race where there were 5 people across, all holding hands! How do you get around THAT?

aron said...

seriously, ESP in 5ks! actually in all races... get out of the way and start where you should! sooo irritating.

Marlene said...

If you're wearing the race shirt, move to the back!

Lily on the Road said...

Just give me the broom, I'll sweep up after the parade!

BrianFlash said...

Race clogging bumps will always exist. Mainly because they are the first time runners that either: 1) completely underestimate how fast they are able to run this race, or 2) feel like they have to be up there near the start because they use the race clock to determine their time.

Idiots.

Mike said...

So you believe colon polyps are reading your blog?

Viper said...

Fair warning to elbowers: I may not be faster than you, but I'm meaner and I strike back. But yes, start where you should.

Xenia said...

This is why I will be carrying a cattle prod with me in subsequent races. My elbows are too delicate for the dirty work.

Nurse Becky said...

I'm a new runner and recently completed my first race. A 4 miler rather than a 5K...go figure for the 4th of July. But, I run slow, and I appreciate you still thinking I deserve to be there. But, I positioned myself in the back. I mean, the last person to cross the start line. I was scared to trampled. To me, it seems intuitive that if you're slow, getting run over is embarrassing. Who would want that in a race? Those people should at least be scared of that. However, the obliviousness of people never ceases to amaze me.

Jess said...

I hope all the dumb-ass runners out there read this lol!

Spike said...

great post, but it could have used a little more violence. the great thing about cross-country races are running spikes (yeah, I just put my name in a post!).

Marci said...

I am confused by the colon polyp references...:)

ITA with the race line up etiquette, especially the pink clad three in a row sisters and walkers.

Ace said...

What? Those people who line up in the front of the pack and then sprint for fifty meters so they can say the were in first place for a while are wrong?

Jess said...

It's Darwinian, really. If you're stupid enough to stand in front of a herd of buffalo and KNOW you can't run faster than them, well...you know.

Congrats on a new 5K PR, by the way.

HEATHER said...

I pretty much stopped reading because I couldn't stop laughing at "douchetardation". hahaha!!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

Even farther back in teh pack I get frustrated at people who line up farther ahead than they should be. Grrrr

Rural Runner E said...

Two Thumbs Up.
This weekend at a race of 8,000 people...there were groups of WALKERS in the front third of the corrals....I am running, talking to my buddy when I was suddenly slammed in the front by THREE WOMEN WALKING shoulder to shoulder .... if I were not such a nice person, one them might have to have been picked up from the asphalt. Run however fast you want, I love you there....just be smart and show some courtesy to those around you.

AKA Alice said...

Should be required reading for all races. My peave is also the peeps who run w/dogs and strollers...I mean it's fine to run with a dog or a stroller, but again...stay with your pace group!

Kristina said...

Too many puns to make about 'survival of the fittest,' so instead I'll just point out that you might have cut more than 8 secs if that dummy hadn't been there (or if you weren't weighed down by that mirror).
Bummer.

KimsRunning said...

Haha! I always run on the outside edge. All the kids and "teams" tend to be in the front/middle so I can go my pace and pass them safely. It's the zigzagging kids I trip over! They come outa NOWHERE!

Nice PR...very nice!

Amanda said...

I had a similar situation happen to me (albeit without resorting to fisticuffs) at my most recent 5K. A woman and her son (around 11yrs) stood in front of me waiting for the starting horn. She was all decked out in moisture-wicking clothes, garmin, etc... so I assumed she would place herself in the correct place within the starting group (middle-to-back of the pack). I WAS curious as to why she had her son with her... After the horn went off I was more than a little surprised when I nearly tripped over them as they started walking rather than running. I guess it goes to show that even those with the "latest" in gadgets/apparel can still get it very very wrong.

theloosemoose said...

Nice. This should be mandatory reading for all runners. And if someone STILL persists on seeding themselves improperly they should then be branded with the words, "I am a race clogging colon polyp."

That'll learn 'em.

Zuleika Rivera said...

And that is why I always stay at the "back of the line." :)

Mike G said...

Yes it is hugely entertaining to see the guy who's way out of his league try to hang with the high school 6 minute mile gazelles. This is one of my favorite parts of marathons too, watching the first timers finish those last few miles in total, complete, utter agony. Bloody nipples and all (don't you have a delicious post about bloody nipples in here somewhere?) Anyways yay schadenfreude :)

Irish Cream said...

THANK YOU. I think at the packet pick-up for my next race, I will build my own makeshift booth and pass out copies of this to everyone who passes!

sRod said...

Thank you!

How do people not understand this??

Wurrey said...

What's funny is that the slow people suffer from this too, I hate it. I am one of those slow-assed 40 minute 5kers, and I still trip over people! There are idiots in every pace group.

The idiots I trip over are walkers who don't see fit to wait for even the slowest of runners to clear out before starting, and are usually accompanied by dogs and strollers, even though the race rules usually prohibit both. I guess they figure they dont' need to enforce rules for the slow-asses. How ruuuude, I say.

Adam said...

Uggg, you are SO right about this. I ran a 5K this weekend. I am NOT a fast guy, but all I did the entire race was pass people. So, either I need to be more aggressive with my self seeding or people need to get.out.my.way.

PS – where can I get one of those mirrors? Everyone that I have hold my full body length mirror complains the entire time. Guy’s gotta make sure he is looking sharp.

Oscar Yeager said...

I'm not quite down to 6-minute pace yet, but it does upset me when the race official megaphones "Everyone who cannot run a 5-minute mile, please stay away from the front!"

There are maybe 10 guys in the whole race who can do 5's, and my attitude ( That I keep to myself ) is like "Hey, up yours buddy! I paid the same as everyone else, and I want the fastest time I can get, regardless of how slow that may be!"

Maggie said...

Then there is the opposite - those of us who are walkers and are in the back of the pack getting run over because someone couldn't get to the race start on time and has to come barreling through the crowd trying to make up his time...