On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Friday, September 6, 2013

In which I have nothing profound or unique to say, but I rant anyway.

It's no secret that I hold an unhealthy amount of disdain for Rock 'n Roll races and especially their sponsor, Competitor Group. Their "races" (I have to put that in quotes since what they actually throw, in my opinion, are more events than competitive races) are lowest common denominator events aimed at giving the non-serious runner an expensive medal - minus all the bad parts of competing, like, you know, pitting yourself against other runners in a competition.

Their for-profit drive has, in my opinion, single-handedly been responsible for a massive increase in race entry fees over the past few years. Yes, the crazy demand for race entries (held against a relatively fixed supply) has enabled events to still sell out despite high entry fees. But by taking over so many local races to add to their stable of races, Competitor has managed to create somewhat of a monopoly.

Beyond buying up smaller races and then raising entry fees, Competitor also designs their races in such a way that much of the competitive edge is stripped completely out. Starts are staggered to an extreme, depriving runners of the competitive "gun" feeling of crowding that to many of us means "run your ass off." The course is lined with bands and cheerleaders and Team in Training coaches and all sorts of encouragement telling you that it's okay to be slow and steady. If you want to pay $100+ to go to a running party, by all means do it.

And now... in their latest move, Competitor has pulled all support for elite athletes, including travel and appearance fees slated for races this month. As RunBlogRun outlined, 71 of the 300 Olympic marathon qualifiers raced with Competitor. 23 runners who ran their races have set world records and 10 have won Olympic medals. No more. Competitor doesn't support you if they need to pay you; they only support runners who are willing to pay them.

Here's a little secret for you: running is a competitive sport. When you pay money to enter a race, you are entering a competition. There will be a winner at the end of it. Can you imagine if the NFL said, "You know what, guys? We're not paying our athletes anymore. They should play just out of love for the sport. The games will still go on, but the athletes can get there themselves. And oh yeah, you'll still pay $100+ a ticket." Let me tell you what would happen: there wouldn't be any more people willing to risk concussions for a life of football, and no one would attend games as the quality of the players declined.

Runners, especially distance runners, peak later in life than many athletes. After they leave college (and even during college, as compared to football/basketball, but that's another story), there is little to no support for professional runners. Rare programs like the Hansons or the Nike Oregon Project support some runners, but even the (few) runners you've heard of are barely making enough money to support themselves.

So let me be clear, in case you've missed it: Competitor doesn't care about running as a sport. They care about making money off of you. My RnR medals have never felt so hollow as they do now that there is no real winner in their races and only thousands of losers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Testing... testing... Can anyone hear me?

Two truths and a lie:

1. I am moving. In 1.5 weeks. Leaving NYC behind, leaving friends I love, a boy I like, an apartment I can afford.

2. I am becoming a diplomat. As in, I will be a representative of the US government abroad. I will help people who want to come to the US apply for visas. I will help Americans arrested for drug possession abroad keep from starring in Locked Up Abroad.

3. I am running the Marine Corps Marathon in 9 weeks. After a solid summer of training, I'm ready to run this race again come October.

You guessed it: #3 is a lie. Numbers one and two, however... very true.

NFAQ (Not Frequently Asked Questions):

What does this mean for me, Tracy? Well, come on, nothing really, now does it? You get the same half-assed, ever-more-occasional blog posts that you ever did. When I have something to say about running, I'll say it here.

Is yours going to become a blog just about your travels? What this doesn't mean for you: I'm not going to start writing a foreign service blog. In other words, NO. This is a running blog and it will focus solely on my running so help me. I imagine some of those runs will be done in far-flung places (yikes! I guess I might want to buy a treadmill, maybe?), but just like I don't show you intimate details of my current life, you don't need to worry that I'll be showing you intimate details of my future life.

Where will you be going? Fuck if I know. I've signed on for "worldwide availability." The basic timeline is that I'm moving to DC at the beginning of September for several months of training. I'll be in DC for somewhere between three months and a year, depending on whether I'm given language training or not. I find out in mid-October where I'll be going for my first tour of two years.

Can I come and visit you abroad? HELL, YES. I don't even know who you are and the answer is yes. You have a place to stay in my apartment. (I mean, your tax dollars will be in part paying for it, so...)

Tracy, get back to the running. Basically, you're like a total failure at running and that's why you transferred your MCM bib, right? This feels like more of a statement than a question. What are you getting at? Do you suck, or what? Ah, yes, there's a question. Yes, yes, I do. When it comes to running, I suck.

Will you be getting a dog? YES, hopefully. Maybe this one will even run with me sometimes, unlike my lazy-ass last dog.

How did this come to be? As anyone who cares already knows, for the past several years I've been an academic. And I hated it. My students are amazing, being able to dig in Egypt is amazing, my colleagues are great people, I had a great and stable tenure track job, and I despised the research. I found it completely uninteresting and isolating. The problem is, as an academic, research is supposed to take up 50-75% of your time. So, I had to find something else to do. And the foreign service was hiring. So I applied, I tested, I got a security clearance, and now I'm moving.

Any questions? If not, you'll hear from me again once, you know, I've actually had done anything related to running worth mentioning.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're all losers! HOORAY!!!!

There's a new race coming up this summer. No joke, it's being billed as a mud/obstacle/color/endurance 5k/charity run. The organizers don't specifically tell you to wear costumes, but I'm sure they would welcome it.

I was thinking about this race - specifically about how much I hate the idea of it - and I was wondering where my (well-documented if you search my blog history, which I'm too lazy to do) hatred for these new-fangled runs comes from. Am I just an old-school purist? I want everyone and their mother to start running, so why, then, am I against something that gets new crowds of people out there? Maybe it's as simple as I have no upper body strength and thus suck at obstacle courses am color blind and don't appreciate color runs don't care about special needs kids don't like the ridiculous cost of these new races hearken back to a day when racing was something one did competitively, even if one wasn't competitive, per se. Nowadays, we race... for medals? Or something.

So here's the thing: by taking away the emphasis on competition, there's no winner at the end of the race. And if no one wins, well, by definition we are all losers.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I got an email titled "blog material(?)." Since I'm too lazy to come up with my own material, I'll almost always take the bait.

And so I was sent this article. 8 super cute hairstyles that you can wear on your run!!!!!

I swear, I don't get it. When did fashion begin to trump function in running?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Running: oh, right, that's something I do

I'm back from Egypt, just in time for the country to descend into chaos... again. But this time, luckily, neither the American taxpayers nor my sister will be funding my recovery mission.

I went for a run this morning. It was a rather brutal baseline of where my fitness is right now. But the good news is that things can only go up, eh? Actually, I suppose they could go down. I ran 3m in the heat with little trouble - I could have struggled through a shorter run in cooler weather.

I did lose some weight while I was in Egypt, but I'm not kidding myself that that is anything but water weight lost from standing in the 110 degree sun 8 hours a day. I mean, I did the NYT 7 minute workout regularly, but now that they have a 4 minute workout, why did I waste those three extra minutes?

While I was running this morning, I overheard something kind of funny. A woman was walking along with a friend, and it looked like they'd just finished their run. She was saying to him, "Yeah, the first mile was like 20 minutes, and the second one was way faster, it was, like, 10 minutes." I think I gave her an odd look.

As she said it, I realized how different that was than how I'm used to hearing people talk about their running. I'm used to my friends saying things more like, "The first mile was about 10 minutes, but then I picked it up to 8:42 for the second and third miles and 8:20 for the fourth." Or, if they're being imprecise, something like, "The first mile was about 10 minutes, but the second was probably 9:15 to 9:30."

It kind of reminds me of back in the olden days when I started running, when I used to approximate my mileage by driving as close to my running route as I could. The future is now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

No pressure, but in case you've wondered what I've been up to...

I'm trying out this "tumblr" thing that's all the rage these days. So I have a new blog, I guess. BUT, and this is important: it's not about running. It's about my work life, the one I try to refer to only obliquely over here. I'll probably be updating it more often over the next couple of weeks. But no promises.