Runner Sportsmanship

postracefoodfrenzyThe recent display of greed at a Cincinnati road race shouldn’t indict all runners. We have our issues but good sportsmanship regularly prevails.

By Henry Howard

I was appalled to learn of the food looting perpetrated by some of the 15,000 runners in the recent Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati. There seemed to be plenty of energy bars, fruit, drinks and other recovery fuel on hand.

But that wasn’t enough for some of the runners who readily ignored giving thanks for the day, and instead greedily filled their boxes with food. Not only did a local food bank not receive an influx of leftovers, many of the runners were left without snacks after the 10K race.

“There were people jumping in dumpsters to find bigger boxes,” race director Julie Isphording told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I couldn’t believe it. People brought bags of their own just so they could stuff them full.”

Goodwill Running

In my short time as a runner, I have never seen anything like this. Certainly, these people do not represent runners as a group.

The vast majority of runners I have encountered cheer each other on, reach out to those who fall and demonstrate good sportsmanship from starting line to finish line. When I started to slow in the last quarter mile of the Illinois Marathon earlier this year, a runner came alongside me and shouted encouragement, “C’mon, keep it up! We’re almost there.”

That was enough for one last final kick. Thanks to her, I finished a shade under 4 hours. The encouragement and good sportsmanship she demonstrated is more realistic and common than the Cincinnati food frenzy. But, still, that situation made me think about some other issues and pet peeves that frustrate runners. Thanks to members of the Marathon Training Academy private Facebook group, who helped compile this list:

  1. Walkers who slow runners down.
Look, I get it. Not everybody runs or can finish a race only running. That’s fine; I encourage everyone to run, walk or some combination of the two. But if you are walking, be courteous and move to the right side. And this goes double/triple/quadruple for groups — it’s cool to walk together, just share the path.

    Also, let the runners start ahead of you. Runners shouldn’t have to dodge walkers a quarter-mile into a race. It’s dangerous and participants — runners and walkers — could get hurt.

  2. “Worst parade ever” sign.
You know who the worst spectator is? The person holding that sign. If your sign is not creative, funny, respectful or inspirational, leave it at home.

  3. Water station and port-a-potty sprinters.

    Ever have someone sprint ahead of you to grab a water or spot in line? Yeah, there is no way I’m letting that person finish the race ahead of me.

  4. Snot rockets.
    If you have to spit or clear your nasal passages, fine. Just look and make sure your target area is clear of approaching runners.

Runners are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We sacrifice sleep for long runs on weekends. We sometimes indulge in too much caffeine, carbs or protein. And, for many of us, we become raving lunatics when we can’t run due to injury or taper.

But yet when we rise, shine and greet each other on race day, there is a spirit of togetherness. That camaraderie shines through the entire day. High fives are exchanged. Feelings of accomplishments are shared. Congratulations are extended.

Those are the runners I know, often by number instead of name. I don’t know who those people in Cincinnati represent but they are not representative of the tens of thousands of runners I’ve shared the roads with.

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