As I've said before, I'm going to be running the New York City Marathon next November. Ordinarily, registration is by highly competitive lottery, but they make an exception for local runners: if you join their club (literally, the New York Road Runners) and run 9 local races in one year (plus volunteering at one), you can be guaranteed entry.
My boyfriend thinks this is racketeering. The rock bottom minimum you'll pay for this is over $300. And that's assuming you register for each of your 9 races in advance, don't miss a single one, and don't count transportation costs, time costs (both in running and in picking up your number two days before) or in shoes.
The thing is, I hate these races. Hate them. So much. It was fun to run in Central Park... the first time. Then I realized that it's really hilly and frankly kind of boring. There's no scenery, the terrain is straight-up pavement with no variation, and there are always, always the same boring amenities (ugly t-shirt at registration, water and a bagel and an apple at the finish). During the summer they excited everyone by briefly offering plums! Wow!
And frankly, the New York running scene kind of depresses me. There are many, many, many type A corporate peeps who decide on a lark to run a marathon or a race and - you know what? They're better than me. Almost all of them. I've been running for a decade and I'm not good and I'm okay with that, but I do kind of hate getting beaten by novices in brand new shoes and perfectly matchy-matchy running outfits. It gets depressing.
But worst of all, the NYRR has an inherent bias against slower runners. They organize their corrals based on predicted or actual time - actual for those who register in advance and have a race history with them, predicted otherwise. My current "best pace" they have on record is 10:12 per mile... certainly not fast by any objective standards, but hard-earned for me and I'd like to think somewhat respectable. I am always the back of the pack. Always. If I registered race day, I could say I expected my 10k time to be 36:00 and I'd be at the front. If I'd never run before, I could say, "Oh, I run a 6:30 mile" and I'd be at the front. Many people do exactly this, so I spend the first mile of these races dodging walkers. And the last corral, where I'm sent to, is typically .25-.5m away from the start. The races are capped at 6,000 runners, yet I can't always see the start from my place in the corral - worse conditions than the Chicago Marathon, which had 40,000+ runners!
Anyway, I ran a 10k today. My 10th race of the year, making me more than qualified for guaranteed entry next year. It went well - only walked once for less than a minute, and that was on Cat Hill.
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"