“WHAT GRINDS MY GEARS…”

Be warned: today is a day to jump up on your soapbox and vent about stuff we hate in the things we love.

You preach it Peter!

You preach it Peter!

For the last week I’ve been consumed by all things soccer (aka “football for any non-Americans out there). I’ve been a fan of the sport ever since I could yell “Goal” (or whatever the catchphrase was way back when). And every four years I glue myself to the TV to watch the World Cup and witness the very best soccer has to offer.

And the very worst.

For all of the fantastic goals, tremendous saves and incredible feats of athleticism, there is one thing I see time and again and absolutely loathe about the current state of soccer: diving.

For those of you not in the know, the sport of soccer has been plagued by players faking being fouled, dropping to the ground and rolling around like they are mortally wounded… all for the sake of drawing a “faux” penalty and getting a free kick or perhaps even a penalty shot (the closest thing soccer has to a “gimme” goal).

Yuck.

And we the fans are forced to watch the slow-mo replay of the supposed transgression only to see phantom pushes and nonexistent trips followed by Oscar-worthy (or Razzie-worthy) dives and death scenes. Seriously, it plays out like a bad Michael Bay movie (all you need is a driving musical score and a transforming robot or two).

Sadly, the gunman responsible escaped capture.

Sadly, the gunman responsible escaped capture.

Yet as soon as the foul is called (and perhaps a yellow card handed out), the wounded player knocking on death’s door miraculously recovers and lives to dive again. Praise be to fakery.

The sad thing is that FIFA (don’t get me started on that corrupt and worthless organization) lets it continue unpunished to the point where it’s become part of the game strategy for many teams.

It really has impacted the game and taken away some of the fun.

Now what does this have to do with running you might ask?

'nuff said?

’nuff said?

Um, soccer players run, right? So there you go. End of article and time for me to go watch more World Cup.

Okay, I realized that even something totally awesome can have aspects or practices that you just don’t dig.

Say, races for instance.

We all know they rock, but let’s be honest, aren’t there a few things about the race experience that make you less than happy?

Now your dislike can range from being mildly perturbed to wanting to call out a tactical nuclear strike against those responsible.

To put it in the words of the Pawtucket Patriot-pounding Peter Griffin, it “Grinds your gears.”

In the name of creative bitching & moaning I thought I’d rattle off a quartet of things about races that just kinda suck… and this list is by no means complete (look for follow-up posts down the road).

Daddy Warbucks I am not.

Daddy Warbucks I am not.

Race “Convenience/Registration” Fees- Let’s be honest, we’ve all hated “convenience fees” ever since Ticketmaster first had the gall to institute them (bastards). And now racing has followed suit. Convenience fees (however they label them) are utter non-sense and just a way to make more money by hiding it as an “after the fact” add on. It’s hard enough on the wallet to pony up $100 or so for each half marathon, but it really is an insult to then hear “Oh wait, don’t forget about that extra $5- $10 that is vitally necessary to blah blah blah blah blah.” (Does anyone believe a word of what they say?)  Remember, what the coupon or race discount giveth, the convenience fee taketh away. Well, at least they don’t charge us convenience fees for bag check… yet (I best shut up here).

Is this thing on?

Is this thing on?

Bad Pre-race Banter- We’re all encouraged to be at our race corals nice and early, only to then be subjected to an hour or so of some of the driest, most tedious and un-funny PA chatter available. Beuller… Beuller… Bueller. Sometimes it’s like bad open mike night at the local beatnik coffee shop. Sure there’s information that needs to be given, but remember it’s often not what’s said, but how it’s said. So, don’t give the mike to some random person just because they possess the ability to generate words. You get points for style. How about finding someone who is good at public speaking, like really good. Maybe a local comedian or someone in town who knows how to work a crowd. How cool would it be to have someone like Patton Oswalt or Jim Gaffigan deliver pre-race tidbits (and a few laughs). Or maybe the gang from the local morning radio show. After all, their day job is to play music, talk and entertain sleep-deprived commuters so they don’t go all “Death Race 2000” with their cars. Just an idea.

Like this, but with runners.

Like this, but with runners.

The “Moving” Wall- I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating again… and again… and again. If you’re running with friends or a group, that is totally awesome. But please, please, please don’t run any more than 3 abreast. While a course may be 13.1 or 26.2 miles long, it’s not nearly as wide. And when 4 or 6 of you run side-by-side, it basically creates a sweaty mobile barricade impeding hundreds or thousands of runners who’d like to pass you. Wars have started for less. Solidarity is to be commended amongst runners, but people will love you even more if you strut your stuff single file. And hell, think of the fun you can have by creating a giant running “crazy train.” Not only can you draft off of each other, but you can take turns being the locomotive, as well as the last car in the train telling everyone behind you to “check out my caboose.” Or think of it as the worlds fastest conga line. Who doesn’t love a conga line?

I'll recycle it, I promise.

I’ll recycle it, I promise.

No Finish Line Snack Baggies- Here’s something that’s a problem at certain races (you listening to me Rock ‘n’ Roll series)… providing little bags at the finish line to hold your post-race snacks. Yup, I’ve just run 13.1 or 26.2 miles and I’m sweaty, dehydrated and hungry/borderline cannibalistic. After I get a medal around my neck all I want is some fluids and a few snacks so I can feel human again. And races oblige by handing you oodles of goodies like: water, bananas, bagels, oranges, chips, chocolate milk and a cornucopia of cookies and crackers… but some races refuse to give you anything to carry them in. After pounding pavement non-stop for five hours, my dexterity is not exactly at its zenith. I’m doing my best to keep from collapsing and here you want me to cradle an entire buffet of carbohydrates in my arms. Why not ask me to juggle flaming chainsaws while you’re at it. Maybe you could take a few cents from my “convenience fee” and spring for some baggies.

Okay, time to put the soapbox back into storage. For now, anyway.

No diving allowed… and Run on!

(Now I want to hear from you. Pick something from the race experience that really “Grinds your gears.” Let me know the what, the why and your thoughts on how to fix the problem.)

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Posted on June 24, 2014, in General, Humor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. This is easy… closing shop early on the back of packers. I have been in races that have a three and a half cut off and the course starts shutting down after two and three quarter or less. They pull people from water stations, photographers leave early and by the time us three hour half runners get to the end its a ghost town. Did we not just work as hard as anybody else to complete the distance.

    (BTW the one exception to this peve was this last weekend – you can read about it on my blog- but I had a horrendous bike and was way behind finishing in a normal time, but there was stil fanfare at the finish line and I had an escort to take care of my needs on the course… and the hired photographer was still there. I of course bought pictures just to show them some love.)
    Putting my soap box away now… Thanks

    • I’ve recently read a lot of talk about “back of the packers” getting less than the star treatment. I too think that’s awful and you deserve the same TLC no matter when you finish. I’ve noticed that with races where the majority of runners do the half and I run the full. By the time I get to the finish line the post-race concert is basically packing up and the goodies/support is lacking. I’ll be sure to check your blog.

      • Did not mean to throw a plug, just trying to spare some comment space. This company gave me the red rug treatment and I was say behind where the usual four hour cut off should have been if they had a race cutoff. I was floored to see volunteers and a few athletes still there cheering me home and giving me water and care at the end. It brought a tear to my eye.

      • All good. And nothing wrong with plugs. Very cool that people stayed and showed the meaning of sportsmanship and support.

  2. I agree on the fees. It is my goal to develop a streamlined registration system that charges a fee of no more than $0.25/runner, and races that use my system will just include this for free in the race cost. The fees are absurd. I have begun research for this project.

    What bugs me is when runners throw their used water/gatorade cups in the middle of the race route. I understand that not everyone finishes them by the time the trash cans end, so crush them first so they will actually sail, then throw them off to the side. Also, empty the extra water before throwing the cup so the water doesn’t fly all over the runner(s) behind you.

    Additionally, when running in waves I always go to the absolute back of my wave and wait until about 10 seconds before the next wave starts before I cross the starting carpet. I often get yelled at by race officials that my wave started and I should go. I am always out of the way before the next wave starts. I realize this, I just don’t want to walk/run in the hoard of people in the wave for the first quarter mile. I don’t see a problem with my doing this and wonder why race officials have a problem with it.

    • Ha… good idea on starting before the next wave. I did that for the OC Half Marathon two years ago. I had a volunteer yelling at me to go and I simply replied “My race, my pace.” As for the cups, people should work on their cup-tossing etiquette. I typically try to do a free throw into the trash bin (I miss about 90% of the time). Thanks for commenting and reading.

      • I think more road races need to follow the way of trail races and go cupless. You can purchase a portable light cup or do what I do and carry a water bottle. I try to use it as often as possible now in races.

      • It’d be nice, but can you imagine the logjam of people trying to get water bottles filled up. I do carry two bottles during races so I can bypass about half of the water stops.

      • During my most recent half, I actually just *gasp* stopped to drink my water. I grabbed the cup, stopped for a second to gulp it down, threw it in the can and went on my way. I did this twice during the race and couldn’t have been stopped for more than a few seconds each time, so it was no trouble getting back into pace once I got moving again and it was great to have a couple breathers. And, I didn’t have to feel like a jerk for throwing my cup on the ground.

        I guess I’ll never know if I lost more time this way than I would have if I’d instead practically doused and drowned myself trying to drink the darn thing on the run. But I PR’d, so, whatever!

      • Cool.. Check out “The Oatmeal” and their comic on running a marathon. There’s a good bit about trying to drink when running.

      • I’ve seen it! I totally thought about that when I was stopping for water. The whole comic was hilarious!

      • Yeah, it’s really hysterical. Totally my sense of humor. I also like his Blerch stuff so much I’ve got a Blerch magnet and just ordered a Blerch squishy ball. Yeah, I’m a big kid.

  3. people who think that we all need to hear their music, or their awful cadence machine beeping. I don’t mind if you want to listen to the ‘Showgirls’ soundtrack on repeat, but I don’t want to, Nor do I need to have the water torture “beep, beep, beep’ of your cardiac monitor sounding cadence machine blasting away.

    http://gottabegoofy.blogspot.ca/

    • I remember hearing a guy during a race with a metronome app on his phone. I couldn’t get away from his fast enough (it was almost hypnotic). I’ve got my own iPod going so I’m spared from hearing someone else play “Let It Go” out loud. Next time you hear someone playing a bad song, start singing the “Barney Song” (I love you, you love me…) as you run by and smile as you’ve just wedged that ditty into their cabeza. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. I definitely get my rage on about the fees. Especially when you consider that, registering before race day and via computer is doing them a favor – they should be paying *me* a convenience fee! Grr.

  5. I agree on the fees! But for me, ignorance is bliss. I don’t care if you charge me a fee or not, just don’t rub it in my face! Charge me $100 even and say “Includes a $10 convenience fee” and I won’t care. Charge me $90 and then tell me there is a $10 fee and I will probably not sign up! And for Chrissake, can we just get the fees to be flat? $75 plus a $9.95 convenience fee pisses me off – a flat $10 fee making it a nice even $85 is acceptable. 🙂

    • I agree. It’s like the $25 baggage fees when you fly… just charge me up front; don’t nickel and dime me after the fact for something that I have to pay (no way around the convenience fee as far as I know). Thanks for reading and commenting.

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