I remember while I was in college a journalist I knew, fellow Kansan Steve Clark, talked about competing in something called "The Ironman." He went to Hawaii to swim, bike and run some ungodly distances. At the time I remember thinking this triathlon thing was sort of cool, but not my cup of tea. Why ruin a perfectly good marathon attempt by swimming and biking before it?
Then a couple of years ago some truly bullshit sports started to bubble up. There was cross-fit, an over glorified exercise-fest that had nothing on the junior high gym torture meted out by our ogre of a physical education teacher, Ralph Wedd. Then there was something called, Tough Mudder. Obviously these corporate running blood suckers didn't compete at the 1973 Shawnee Mission East Invitational cross country meet, otherwise they would never had dared labeled their farcical runs with that name.
|I dodged plenty of cowpies barbwire and jumped a ditch to win this race in 1972|
Least we forget the Spartan Race started a little more than a decade ago before becoming another cash cow for people who must love suffering. A bunch of Navy Seal wanna-be's get punished with various nasty obstacles over distances ranging from a 5K to a marathon or longer. Oh, and for those that don't enjoy torture there's the recently arrived "Color Run" series. It's a run aimed at couch potatoes who enjoy getting blasted with powder colors.
Whatever happened to competing against the clock? Even at my age I try to challenge myself to run times that I think I should be capable of running even though I'll never run close to my personal bests anymore. The joy of competing against the clock and competing against the local age groupers is enough of a challenge to keep me training like a madman.
Besides, Tough Mudder, Spartan, and Color Runs all have one thing in common. The people that came up with these concepts are making a ton of money. These races are also doing something else. They're hurting local road races organized by your local shoe store, running club or community organization looking to do something good for the place where you live.
Some folks do these events for charities. That's all good and well. But when you support these corporate runs instead of competing in a "local" road race, you're hurting your community. You're allowing carpetbaggers to come in and take a substantial amount of your cash out of the local economy. These races aren't cheap. Think about it this way. Run a local 5K for $20 and donate the extra $25 you would have paid to been doused with "color" to a charity that supports your community.
To my friends and family members who have indulged in these crazy competitions, don't take offense. I understanding the need to face new challenges. I just ask to consider what you're supporting and who you're supporting when you take part in these events. Besides, whatever happened to the old adage, Run for Fun. I don't need mud, barb wire or barriers to make me feel like I've done something special. I've faced those challenges plenty of times in Kansas on a good, old fashioned, training run!