Posted by: Joe English | July 1, 2011

Quandary — Fastest of the Slow or Slowest of the Fast?

running-advice-bugNext week the World Masters Athletics competition heads for Sacramento, with almost 5,000 of the most experienced track and field athletes – including 1,900 from the United States — coming to show off their stuff. These runners, race walkers and field athletes are coming from all over the world are a diverse group from former Olympians to who knows what. One thing we do know about these folks who are still running circles around tracks in their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s (or even older) is that they either love their sport or are darn serious about it.

So here’s where my quandary starts. I’ll be there next week with my good friend Coach Dean. When we heard about the event last year, both of us knew that we had to sign up. I threw my hat into the 5,000M and have been training hard for it since. But in entering the event, I didn’t really consider that there would be people that might be two or even three minutes faster than me running — and I’m pretty darn fast. Things got more interesting when meet organizers announced the participants in each event a few weeks ago. Of the 45 runners who had signed up for the 5,000M in my age group (M40-44), I was about half-way down the list in terms of my predicted finish time. Since there are limits to the number of people that can run in one heat in a track race, there would be two heats — one with most of the faster runners and one with everyone else.

Of course, then the question became — as a guy right in the middle of the field — would I rather be in the heat in which I would likely finish last or the one where I might finish first?

Hmmm… well, I’ve considered the question over the last couple of weeks. On the one hand, as numerous people pointed out, potentially winning the second (slower) heat might be fun, but might also be a case of being the “fastest of the slow” — not that anybody is really slow here. But, as they pointed out to me, is it any fun to win when you know that a whole separate race would be going on and all of those runners would be faster than you? Most of these folks were not themselves runners, I should probably point out.

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