Goodbye, New York Road Runners

23 May

You know what I don’t like?  When people say “I’ve been doing _________ since before it was cool.” It’s like, okay great.  I’m happy for you.  Way to make everyone else feel like an asshole.  That being said, I do get some portion of the sentiment behind it.  And so, obviously and as I am wont to do, I started thinking WAY too deeply about the statement and have decided that it can be interpreted in a few different ways:

Way #1: When I was doing ______ there weren’t as many people doing it, so it wasn’t as crowded/expensive/over policed/over saturated.

Way #2:  Now that everyone is doing ________ I feel sort of like a poser doing it even though I have been doing it forever and that fucking sucks.

Way #3:  Some combination of the aforementioned two ways.

Okay, so, now that we have out of the way, I would not say that I have been running long distances since before it was cool because, really, running still isn’t cool exactly.  And I also haven’t been running for that long and I really think to even almost get away with such a statement you basically have to have started doing whatever thing that you’re complaining about everyone else doing for at least like, 75% of your life. I have only been running for just shy of 50% of my life and also I don’t take myself all that seriously so, you know, statement off limits.  Anyway, all of this being said, something has been happening to running and I do not like it one bit.

One of the things that I have always loved about running is that even though it is an individual sport, there is so much support amongst the running community.  This is part of the reason why that stupid viral Facebook letter to an overweight runner made me so darn angry.  I have just always found that more than anything else, runners want other runners to have good races.  We all know the work that went into training for endurance events and we all know what it feels like to have a bad day.  You know, for your legs to feel like led, to have to shit halfway through, to be sick, or crampy, or have an ill-timed injury.  You never, ever want to see a fellow runner limping through a race, or a training run, unaware of whether or not they will be able to finish or if the nagging pain in their hip, their foot, their quad means a few months off.  And this is not only true amongst us amateur athletes.  The pros in the sport are just as supportive of one another.  Take, for example, the support that Meb Keflezighi got from Ryan Hall and the other US runners at Boston this past year.  And that is only one example of many.  It was the loss of that sort of camaraderie among runners that made this year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon so…upsetting.

I had decided before running this race that it was going to be my last race with New York Road Runners (NYRR).  I’m not going to go into all the problems I have with this organization, especially since I have talked about the intense price increases over the past few years on this blog before.  I just think that in an effort to ride the wave of popularity that running has been experiencing over the last number of years, NYRR has forgotten about all the people who have kept them afloat for decades.  I don’t know, maybe I am just being grouchy but I really think that all the extra bullshit that accompanies a lot of the NYRR races these days really take away from what is so great about running:  it’s simplicity.

I guess it is partially that along with its new found popularity, running has been the latest to fall at the feet of Big Business.  People spend hundreds of dollars on watches that they don’t know how to use; they fall prey to ridiculous trends about appropriate sneakers without doing research into the benefits and possible problems of wearing them; they spend so much money on races just because the bib pick-up involves a “pre-party” AKA some lame music playing in the background and a bunch of companies hawking their wares.

The thing about it, and I suppose this isn’t entirely NYRR’s fault, is that capitalism does not bring out the best in people.  There is no “team” in capitalism.  It is every woman, man and child to her/himself.  Capitalism, to me, is largely what our national obsession with individualism is born from.  The attitude that goes along with people needing to have the newest gadgets, the nicest clothes, the trendiest sneakers is the attitude that leads to the terrible fucking race that I ran in Brooklyn.  Honestly, I have never seen so many people literally push through other people to get ahead.  I have never seen so many people cross in front of waves of runners to get to water stations without verbally letting people know or even checking over their shoulders.  I have never seen so many people leave water stations and drop their uncrushed cup in the middle of the road, a big runner no-no because it rolls around and can trip one of the thousands of people who come behind you.  When you run a race, you always check your surroundings, you always communicate with other runners, and you really always crush your damn cup and throw it off the course.  Sure, running is something that is individual.  You aren’t relying on other people in the same way as you might in a soccer match or a relay.  But you are not doing it alone.  You are running a race along with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other people and you have to respect that the race is not just yours, it is everyone’s.  All the other people running trained hard, paid the price, woke up at 4:30 in the morning and your pushing, your cutting off, and your not crushed cup could really make a difference not only in their time, but in their safety and their enjoyment.

Maybe I was just running around a shitty group of people but it really made me sad.  It made me remember when I ran the New York City Marathon, yes also organized by NYRR, back in 2006.  I was going through the Queensboro Bridge and there was a blind man running near me.  The bridge was dark so it became a little difficult for runners to see other people, especially if you weren’t running near the sides.  Without saying a word, a whole group of runners created a protective circle around this man, making sure that the darkness and other runner’s inability to see as clearly would not impact his race or make him unsafe.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and really made me proud of my community.  In that moment, it was like everyone was running the race together and our achievement was entirely dependent on the achievements of those around us.  At the Brooklyn Half this year, it was everyone for themselves.

Maybe part of the reason for this was that in an effort to, I don’t know, make more money, NYRR allowed way too many people to run the Half.  There were over 25,000 people that ran the race this year, meaning that for a lot of us, we were completely jammed up for the first 8 miles.  When you have a race of that size, you simply sacrifice some of the other things:  in my opinion the enjoyment, but certainly the speed.  (And don’t even get me started on the fact that they gave us half-filled dixie cups of water at the end of the race rather than full bottles.)

I just think that what NYRR is helping to usher in is a complete change in the attitude that surrounds running and that is decidedly not cool.  I don’t know.  I run races because it’s fun, it’s nice to have a goal and it helps me place my running squarely within an equally motivated and supportive group of people.  That feeling is gone from NYRR races and so I am bidding them a not-so-fond farewell, taking my $20 stopwatch and keeping my fingers crossed that those pushers, those cut off-ers, and those cup non-crushers don’t follow me.

6 Responses to “Goodbye, New York Road Runners”

  1. Ada May 23, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    My friends agree with the poor tact of NYRR. They have since switched to New York Runs and other non-profit memberships which are more community oriented. That being said, I am an on-and-off runner for the past 3 years,but my goal to run a half marathon is going to be an out-of-state one considering your post.

    • FranklyRebekah May 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      I’m running a half with NYC Runs in September. It was only $35 and I think it should be great! Check it out

    • FranklyRebekah May 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

      I am running a half with NYC Runs in Brooklyn on September 7th. Only $35! I think it should be fun!!

  2. aeroplaneoversea May 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Yes, so many times I’ve had water and whatever else thrown on me because people cannot take one second to see if someone is beside them.
    P.S. I’ve ran with NYC Runs numerous times because of their cheap race prices! I like their hot chocolate series in the winter.

    • FranklyRebekah May 23, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      I’m excited for this upcoming race in September! I have high hopes! !

  3. marissap333 June 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    I didn’t get to read this until now…my schedule has been so crazy that I haven’t been able to even check my email! Anyway, I agree. I mean, I guess you could say that I HAVE been running for 75% of my life but I still don’t feel like I can say I was running since before it was cool since, according to the book, Tread Lightly, running started to get “cool” back in the 80’s. I do, however, find that it has been getting increasingly more and more expensive to run races and also, part of the reason why I didn’t run competitively as an adult for so long was that it is incredibly time consuming to train with a group for a marathon etc. There go two of the top two reasons why I run: being able to run regardless of time restraints (no classes) and the fact that it’s free (again, not a class so there’s no fee to lace up and run the streets). Of course, my top reason is to zone out and reach that meditative state that one can enter when they let their mind go…see your post about smashing glass objects against a brick wall. Anyway, in high school, it was by no means “cool” to be on the x-country team, but that was precisely what made it so cool. Like you said, it’s an individual sport, but when running with others, you help other runners if they fall down (which I did see in the Brooklyn half) and when you see someone starting to walk, you do what I do: tell them they’re almost there. Don’t give up! You can do this! It saddens me that with numbers of runners increasing, newbies don’t always get that. It also makes me sad that you had such a crappy experience. We all have bad days, but what’s important is to remember that when you see someone else having a bad day. Rather than making it worse, give them a hand.

    Sent from my iPhone


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