Friday, June 13, 2014

A letter to the Back of the Pack runner from a Back of the Pack runner...

This is me at the finish line at the Rock n Roll Full Marathon in New Orleans in 2013.
This pic was taken a minute after Jennifer and I crossed.

Do you see anyone? No!
YES, there was a finish line and YES, the announcer was great, (Thanks, Mike Wattigny:)
Was the after party still going? YES!
Was anyone there? Not really!
My time 6:05:41
OMG yes 6 hours! Back of the pack!
Did I care? NO!
Did I finish? Yes!

I'm not fast!
I need to lose 20lbs. Will it make me faster? Who knows.
Am I trying to be elite fast? NO!
I am a mom who likes to run and race.
Am I racing anyone else? NO!
Am I racing myself? YES!

Why I am telling you this, because I have been in the "Back of the Pack" before.

When it feels like no one cares whether you finish or not.
When you get to water stations and your lucky if you can get water out of the jugs left on the table because there are no cups and people there to aide you.
When it feels like the cops and volunteers want to go home and just want you to go faster but you cant.
When you see your "faster" friends on course pictures and then look for yours and realize the photographers left the course before you came because their "time" was up.
When you get to a turn and your not sure where to go because there is no one there to direct you.
When the "sag wagon" is behind you and you can see it.
When you start guessing yourself as to why you are running the race because you are having a hard time finishing.
When everyone is leaving, but you still have miles to go to finish.
When you get to the finish and they have run out of medals. (I have not experienced this but I have heard it happen in many races)
When you get to the finish and there is nothing left to eat or drink.

I know how it feels. I've been in the back helping my fellow runner get up that hill, or get to the finish. The power of another runner can be epic. Just simply by talking to someone on course can make or break their race. I learned this after my marathon. I had someone telling me I could finish. So I knew I could. I had people that I surrounded myself with that were cheering me on. Those people were in the back with me. YES, other "Back of the Pack" runners.

As runners we need to help bring up this generation of running and racing. Life is not all about winning and competition. Meeting an 80 yr old man on course last weekend that had run 55 marathons by the age of 80, and didn't start running till he was 55 yrs old, and all he could tell Heather, Melanie, and myself, that we were the inspiration to him. How can you not inspire anyone who wants to run, walk, shuffle, run backwards, dribble, whatever in a race. Help bring the awareness!

Do I expect complete strangers to wait for me, a slower runner to finish? NO!
Do I think people should take the time to cheer on their fellow runners? YES!
Do I think racing should be all about winning and PR'ing? YES AND NO!

I'm never going to qualify for a Boston race. THATS OK!
I may never break 2 hours in a half. THATS OK!
I may never win my age group. THATS OK!
I will never run along side an Olympian! THATS OK!
(Maybe an Olympian will run along side me, at my pace. You would be surprised that most of your elite runners just want people out there finishing and motivating others. I have met Shalane Flanagan a couple of times and she is amazing. I could see her walking a race with someone if that meant that person would finish.).

SO why I am writing this?

I am a blogger!
I have been a "back of the pack" runner!
I have been to 100's of races!
I know lots of race directors personally and every single one of them respects every runner, walker, crawler, roller out there. (Trust me their job is not easy at all)
I have seen the tears and the passion in runners eyes!
I have seen people "give up"!
I have seen people DNF!


I have seen "faster" runners run back to cheer on other racers.
I have seen winners at the finish congratulating "Back of the Pack" finishers.
I have seen race announcers be just as excited about me finishing as the winner of the race.
I have seen volunteers still cheering us in.
I have seen medics still aiding people up till the end.
I have seen race directors personally go get food and water for finishers when they ran out.
I have seen runners forget about their time and help other runners get to the finish.
I have seen peoples lives change from running.
I have seen communities change from running.
and recently after watching a film produced by Saucony and Runners World Magazine seen running change countries.

What we don't realize is that we have the power to change, to have a voice! To make this world a better place simply by putting on some running shoes (or not) and run. Get out there and inspire people. Get people moving. Let people experience the feeling we as runners have experienced. Its not always about winning because at the end of the day if you inspired one person to be healthier that you've done what we should all be striving to become. AN INSPIRER!

I write this after reading some of your responses to Runners World Magazine repost of my friend Heathers blog post.

YES, shes a fast runner!
YES, she was only in the back because she wasn't feeling good.
YES, she hasn't ever had to experience the "Back of the pack"
YES, she was at the race because she was "Invited by Runners World Magazine as a blogger for the race"


I was too!

This is the 2nd time Runners World has invited me, a slow running blogger to their event. They have never made me as a "slow runner" feel like I was any less of a runner than someone like Heather who is a "fast runner". As a matter of fact they have never even asked me what my PR times are for any race. Runners World invited us because we have a love for running and a love for runners, fast or slow!

Do I hope things change for the "Back of the Pack" runners, YES!
Do I hope faster runners will cheer on slower runners? YES!

But most of all I hope we all continue to inspire others to run. To cheer on our fellow runners. To make a difference in each others lives.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Reinertsen, paraolympian, and first amputee to finish Ironman Kona, at the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. She was the keynote speaker after dinner and a couple things she spoke about really hit home to me. One of them being...
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This is so true. Getting the courage to start something is half the battle. The other battle is finishing.

Have I DNF a race, YES!
Its haunting me still every time I think about it. (And it was the Biggest Loser half, so the fact that I felt like loser for DNFing makes it worse, lol) But I still got back out there and ran another half and 10k and 5k. I didn't let it define who I was as a runner.

And the last thing she told us was if you just run with a smile, you will always feel like a winner. I have found myself doing this a lot lately. People love it when you smile.
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You see I was one of the people in the back with Heather and I am a"Back of the Pack: racer. I honestly feel like Heather, Melanie, and I were meant to walk the hhhalf for a reason. We are your voice!
Heathers recap of our experience went viral FAST in the past couple of days. But I promise you guys as a "Back of the Pack" racer and RW blogger that RW and other RD's have heard and seen your comments, frustrations, and suggestions and change is coming.
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YES, we had a blast!
NO, we were not "racing"
YES, we were "invited" by Runners World Magazine

It is obvious that RW would take something that one of us writes about seriously, even when the majority of you guys have been screaming about this problem for years. Why? because that's why we were invited to come. For feedback! We are your voice. We are there to try and make a difference for everyone, good or bad!

So I hope you all keep on running, back of the pack or front.


  1. Great post. It's important to speak up when things aren't done right and express your voice, but then there are always those that take the stance that it was an "intentional slight" with "malicious intent". Not every elite thinks you should get off "their" course. Things aren't always evil. Not every mistake is a carefully planned conspiracy. I was happy to see Runner's World posting about it and saying how they see they have things to work on, after the inaugural event.

    I'm at the back, and while it's great when there are spectators cheering, I don't expect people to stand there for hours cheering until I get there. I appreciate them when they are there, but I don't expect it. Not having volunteers, not having the course open as long as it should be, taking down the finish, they are all things that all runners do deserve. So like you said, speak out. But speaking out doesn't also mean you need to be a jerk, which some people forget.

    I run at the back. I run my race and I have fun. I'm happy to be out there with EVERY runner, from the very front to the very back.

    1. Exactly John! People always want to find the bad in everything and it drives me crazy. Things aren't always going to go exactly how we want them to go. I just feel as if we all work together and make the races as enjoyable for everyone, the race world will only grow and get better.

  2. Loved Heather's post and you guys should have been treated like superstars! I will say that about Disney races that they AWARD the last finisher!

    1. Kat, your so sweet. We actually were treated like superstars, it was everyone else we felt sad for.:(

  3. Really enjoyed reading this post!

  4. Love your post! I am not a fast runner and I never will be. I am a BOP or close to it runner... my PR for the marathon is 4:59:17 and I busted my butt to make my goal of finishing under 5 hours before my 30th birthday and I doubt I will ever see that mark again. My times are all much slower than that one. It doesn't help that I have a Boston-qualifying older brother either.
    I was one of those runners that finished a race and didn't get a medal. I fundraised thousands of dollars for LLS with Team In Training to be there that day at the 2010 Nike Women's Marathon and a bunch of rogue runners stole the Tiffany necklaces from those of us still on the course that rightfully earned them. I had a rough day with cramping issues for much of the last 6 miles and finished even slower than normal, but thanks to the folks with Team In Training there were still plenty of people cheering us on. We got a blue Tiffany box when we crossed the finish line (in the pouring rain) but it wasn't until we were on the shuttle on our way back to our hotel that we found out that we had a previous year's necklace in our Tiffany box. Nike mailed us our correct Tiffany necklace a few weeks later after they were made for us but we were still robbed of the experience by some faster runners who got their necklaces and then crossed the finish line again and took another, or by people who weren't even signed up for the race but somehow crossed the finish line and took our hard-earned medals from us. Everyone who did not get their medal that day was a BOP runner. Many were people that raised thousands of dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with Team In Training.

  5. <3 <3 <3 You are an amazing person and a fantastic spokesperson for our sport. I'm glad I met you. Let's do this again sometime, eh?