Monday, May 26, 2014

Lauren Fleshman was too nice to put a smug marathoner in his place

The quite funny and very down-to-earth Lauren Fleshman has a column in this month's Runner's World about why the 5K is an "awesome" race. (Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available online.) Among other things, it doesn't involve soul-draining 3 1/2 hour long runs on the weekends, and you're able to walk normally the next day.

But the story starts with an anecdote that illustrates a common perception that the marathon is the pinnacle running event, while the 5K is for beginners. Fleshman recounts a flight she took where she started chatting with the guy sitting next to her, who she'd deduced was a runner based on the shoes he was wearing. Impressed by her extensive knowledge of running, he asked her if she also ran marathons, to which she replied that she had once but ran mostly 5Ks. The guy's response was, "Keep trying, you'll get there."

Fleshman is a pro runner with a 5K PR of 14:58. (Her marathon PR is 2:37.) Wherever there is, she's gone WAY past it already.

Anyway, she writes about how she wanted to discuss how hard it was in a recent international competition when everyone started out at a 4:50 pace in the first mile . . . but was too tired to make the case and had to deal with a mess her baby had just made.

Or it could be that she was too nice to say anything like that.

As I read the column, I found myself wondering, apart from my lack of desire to run a marathon, whether I would've fallen into some kind of equivalent mistake as Fleshman's seatmate did - which is to say, to assume some greater degree of athletic accomplishment when actually sitting next to a pro runner (or even just an elite one).

I'm pretty sure that my conversation would have diverged at the point where she said she ran mostly 5Ks, whereupon I would've asked, "What's your PR?"

14:58 would've definitely let me know that I was sitting next to a running goddess, not some novice runner.

So, yeah, don't go assuming that a 5K runner needs to keep trying to "get there."

UPDATE (5/30): The article by Fleshman is available online now.

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