Friday, September 20, 2013

Article Reaction "The Slowest Generation"

Secret: sometimes I have no clue what I want to write about on a particular day (and other days I have 50 posts in mind). There have been a few occasions I have waited until I read the WSJ at work to see if there was anything interesting to chat about. I used it with an article about waving, and an article about celebs running.

The article titled "The Slowest Generation" (WSJ writer Kevin Helliker) certainly caught my eye while sipping my morning brew at the office.

Helliker talks about how placing in his age group doesn't carry the same weight as it used to, and that is mainly because younger runners are competing nowhere near the level baby boomers did when they were 20-30 years old. Times that win races and age groups these days are certainly different from 30 years ago, there is no denying that. But I feel like we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. If I beat someone who is older than me, it's thought that I ONLY beat them because I am younger. But if someone older than me beats me, I am thought to be lazy and slow, in turn making our generation look bad.

"Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and its good enough just to finish" - This quote definitely stuck a chord with me, because sadly it's true. If you didn't come from a competitive background before doing road races, you wouldn't have had the same experiences with running. It was odd to me when I started running road races to get medals for finishing. I have quite a bit of hardware from my high school and college days and you can bet I didn't get those just from finishing. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my half-marathon/marathon finisher medals and it makes me happy getting them- but giving them to everyone does change the premise of what that medal really means. 

One thing I have seen at a few races (I particularly remember this when I did Around the Bay) is that depending on your finish time you get a different color medal. This gives people something to work for, no matter what your level of fitness- you have a goal to attain and if you want a different color medal you are going to have to earn it. 

"Perhaps the fastest growing endurance event in the country, the Color Run, doesn't time participants or post results". 

1. Helliker--The Color Run is NOT an endurance event- I dare you to tell Kara, Shalene or Meb that what they do is on the same level as a Color Run.  

2. It's not a race if there isn't a clock. If you want to give people a reason to train and work harder, time them. I guarantee if you start timing things and posting them, you'll see a lot less people walking through the finish line. 

3.While yes these have brought more people into the running scene, Color Runs and obstacle races should NOT be associated with road races- they are on 2 completely different levels

4. YES there is a place for these EVENTS, I think they are great at trying to get people active. I think it's good to incorporate FUN into running and training, but over emphasis on that is exactly why our country has seen a decline in the competitive field. 

5. Maybe if companies like Competitor group would stop treating runners like they're just another Joe schmoe from off the street than the competition level would go up. You want people to train hard, race hard and start breaking records- don't take away their endorsements just because they aren't an NFL linebacker (and you know I love football, for real). 

I'd be lying if I said this article didn't leave me fired up. 
I have always been a competitive person, no doubt about that. I thrive on it, it's one of the many reasons I love racing- some get sick thinking about the start line and I get excited. I'm fired up because I love to race, I love to push myself I love to see how far I can go. Those of us who have worked incredibly hard to get where we are (in life and in running) are being thought of as "parade goers" instead of the feisty driven people we really are.

 I know that sports and athletics are not the be all end all for everyone, I know that running and fitness are just a tool for health for some and I appreciate that. But this is about so much more than just athletics, where is the drive in general where are those youngsters that are hungry for success in any element?

I don't want to knock people who are trying to lose weight, those who do color runs or other fun runs as motivation to get moving. I commend you on trying to make healthier choices. But where's your drive, where is the push to get better? Pick a race and try and better your time each time you do it, pick a gym that is hosting a biggest loser type competition. 
Push your limits and let the power of competition make you better. 


Un-timed races (read: events) are doing no one any favors. You aren't holding people accountable, and you aren't encouraging competition.

You don't want a race to be a parade? then give them something to work for, make them earn that medal. 

You want the younger generation to be more competitive? Then stop babying them, stop coddling children and teens all the time- make them put effort in at school and athletics or whatever they are doing. Stop giving kids everything and start making them work for it. 

So you want to hold a competitive race? Give them a reason to come. Yes Competitor Group I am talking to you. Hell, my favorite 5k (Bergen Road Race) has competition because they MAKE it competitive, they MAKE people want to RACE. Competitor Group pulling elite support, has actually taken away from the competitive running scene. 

I really don't mind Color Runs or Obstacle Races(I'd be hard pressed to do another one though)- they get people moving, they are trying to help our country's weight problem and they allow people to be active and have fun. Some of those people might find they want to be more competitive after doing a fun run and they find their way to road racing, more power to them. 

The fact is, Helliker is bashing our generation-
"Of course their are countless super-elite young athletes. And only because the young have no need to prove they're not old was I able to outrace so many of them last month. Still, apathetic competition offers little competition to some aging athletes"
I only hope that people of our generation read this article and get fired up like me. Take it as a challenge to get better, to get faster and work harder. I do NOT want to be thought of as the generation of people who are content and who run in 'parades' and not races. This is not just about running, it's about life- do we want to be seen as the generation that just sits back?

What about you, are you a competitive person?

Thoughts on how "masters" athletes are thought to be better than our generation? If we beat them, it's because we're younger and if they beat us it's because our generation is not competitive. We can't win.

What do YOU do to push yourself?

P.S. Kevin Helliker of the Wall Street Journal, if you're reading this- I challenge you to a race, and then a sit down chat. Battle of the minds- I don't think you'd walk away saying there is no competition in my generation.


  1. LOVE that idea of having different color ribbons based on what time you finish! I think it's important to reward people for trying/finishing, but I agree that today we've become too much about "everyone is special" and there isn't enough recognition of those who are truly superior.

  2. I HATE it when people do a color run and then say they are an endurance runner. It shouldn't but it makes me want to strangle them. I'm not going to lie I do like getting medals at races but that's not why I do them. At a lot of triathlons only the award winners get medals or trophies and I never hear anybody complaining about it. I think running has been advertised as something that literally everyone can do an therefore people are out there walking an entire marathon. I'm not trying to hate on slower people because honestly I'm not that fast but I don't like the mentality of just finishing unless there is a medical problem involved. I could rant for hours about this

  3. I don't think we're friends on Facebook, so I'll copy/paste my thoughts here (beyond the ones I left on Instagram!).

    Lazy, unmotivated, unambitious - and now slow. Sure, let's keep making my generation into a monolith and write us off as unwilling to work for what we want.

    This article pisses me off beyond that. Timed road races and fun event races (e.g. Color Run) are not the same things - and the runners that Helliker refers to in this article are seasoned endurance athletes. As a 20-something who was a sedentary nerd for the majority of her life, I'm working on building that endurance NOW. Also, I constantly hear in the media that we need to be exercising for fun to combat our collective obesity and build good habits. So what's wrong with a fun run provided that we understand that they're not on the same level as timed, competitive races? Moreover, expanding races to allow non-competitive runners means money. More entries mean more revenue in entry fees, more hotel bookings, more flights, more patronage at local restaurants. Let's continue to discourage people from a healthy hobby and from participating in races. Yes, by all means, let's stop.

  4. I agree with most of your comments on this. The runners who do things like Color Runs and untimed ones are totally different runners than those who are competitive or trying to be competitive. The untimed runs are not races- they are recreational events based around having fun and being active. Road races are that for a lot of people too- tons of people do road races just for fun and to support charities and aren't looking to be competitive or "win"- they do them to compete against themselves and support the cause. Also those with pancakes at the end are pretty popular :).

    I'm one of the younger people in my running group and also fast, but there are other runners who are older and still very speedy. It really hurts when someone sees my race times and says "Oh well, you're young". Even runners who start at an older age can improve, and being 27, I have still worked very hard to get where I am and train very hard to stay there. Heck, I went from a 33 minute 5K to a 22 minute 5K.

    I think finisher medals for half marathons and marathons are fine. I don't even mind if 5Ks and 10Ks have them. I prefer to earn medals- and mine are earned, not given. Even most of my finisher's medals from races, I've placed in those races. I feel differently over my "earned" medals than my "finisher" medals. It's the race's decision what they want to offer. If someone has a huge problem with it, they shouldn't do that race. It's not worth worrying over. Maybe it'll inspire people to stay active, regardless of their speed or distance.

  5. I have a few different thoughts on this. For one, I really don't see the disparity in competition to be honest. Locally, the 20-somethings are fiercely competitive, there are a lot of cross country athletes and running club athletes that continually push themselves and are driven. I even think my age bracket, 30-34, is a difficult one to place in. Those women are FAST. Maybe this is different on a more national level, I don't know.

    Second, I have no problem with the color run (one across the street from my house this weekend, actually). It is a RUN, not a RACE and attracts people who are either just starting out or who want to bond in a fun way with family/friends. I think if you're a new runner you'd find these attractive because races can be intimidating so this could be a way to shake out some nerves without the added pressure of competition (or could push you to enter a 5k RACE). They're not for me, nor is Spartan, Warrior, or any of those other events where you get electrocuted while finding your way through quicksand. And I don't think they really bill themselves as anything more. As an outside observer, you do those events to see how you stack up against the elements and obstacles, not to really place. "I placed 1st in the Spartace Race" has a whole different meaning than "I placed first in the Boston Marathon."

    Third, when I read the article I took a lot of offense to the comparison of the 4 hour vs. 3 hour marathoner. Just because you take 4 hours (still fast in my opinion and a time I have yet to break) doesn't mean you have worked any less than someone who is faster. Peoples bodies, commitments, goals, and endurance levels are different. If you want to train for a 3 hr marathon I think that is as noble as saying you'd just like to finish. Granted, it is a MARATHON, not a leisurely stroll with pit stops for lunch (I have heard of this happening during NYC). I think that if you cannot finish within the prescribed amount of time as set forth in the race rules you should reconsider.

    Aaaaand, that's all. Happy Friday! Yay!

  6. This article fired me up because I think if you run a Half Marathon...GREAT...if you walk/run a Half Marathon...GREAT...if you walk a Half Marathon...GREAT but just because you are not one of the first to finish does not mean that you did not earn a medal for completing. Everyone has to start somewhere. Whether I run 4 miles instead of 26 miles I consider myself a runner. Articles like this is what makes overweight non-runners stay that way. They are criticized for trying and not as good as healthy runners. They need to worry about themselves and focus on THEM and not everyone else. What may be a HUGE accomplishment for some may not be HUGE for someone else. Don't tear them down when they have accomplished something HUGE to them.

  7. I was just reading this article actually today. Great minds must think alike. Anyways I agree that those types of runs are in no way, shape or form the same as running a 5k for time. The problem is that people see these and think I want to do these, blah blah blah. That's great do them but you cannot do the same thing with a half marathon or full marathon. Those take time and dedication.

  8. Oh..this is a good one! I am a master's athlete and have always raced for competition. And will admit that sometimes the whole "complete" culture gets to me. So what I have done, for the most part, is started steering clear of the big, bells and whistles events. I think these are the ones that attract the complete crowd--they want bling, they want swag, they want bands, etc. I just want to run a well-organized race on a good course. I could care less about all the swag that goes with these events. And the completion crowd doesn't really like the smaller events I like, so it's a win/win.

  9. One last thought--I think the growth for these events is in the completion group, not the competition group. So for race directors, who are looking to earn a buck, that's where they'll focus.

  10. Right after I read your post, I went and read the article at the Wall Street Journal ( In short, a terrible article, IMHO. Blaming events like the color runs and the Tough Mudder for the lack of younger competition misses the mark. There are plenty of competitive kids out there; pick up a copy of the Running Times and you'll see them featured every month.

    Running races used to only be for hard-core athletes. In the last few decades, they have opened up to people of all levels of fitness. Just look at the number of "learn to run" training programs out there. It's GREAT that people are embracing running as a form of fitness, no matter how "slow" it's perceived to others.

    Everyone has their reasons for running. Some for time, some to qualify for other events like Boston, and some as a way to get out and exercise in a social setting. Just because someone runs a 4, or 5 hour marathon, doesn't mean that they didn't train for it. They likely trained as hard, maybe even harder, than someone training for a 3 hour marathon. IT'S ALL RELATIVE.

    I admire people like yourself that can train 6 days of the week (or more) and post what I consider to be fantastic times, and compete in races to win. But those that run or run/walk half or full marathons also deserve respect.

    In many races, medals have gone from being a sign of placing, to a token of completion. Maybe that's good, maybe bad. Some races I have run give medals to the top 3 finishers in each age category as well as overall. Neither one is bad; just different.

  11. Hi Laura, I agree with most of what you're saying. I was supposed to run my very first Half tomorrow but I'm won't be due to a badly timed injury (hugely disappointed and sad). Nearly every non-runner around me was saying "would I not do it anyway, even if you have to walk a bit?" For real?? The challenge I set myself was to run it and finish within a certain time. I'm no longer fit for it and I'll let myself down if I try to do it now. There's my competitiveness!
    I love getting technical shirts after a race (and the camaraderie of spotting buddies around town) but I do think medals belong to Half/full marathon finishers and the winners of shorter races. Because they've really achieved something not everyone can do. Coloured ribbons for finish times is an excellent idea.

  12. Hi Laura, I agree with most of what you're saying. I was supposed to run my very first Half tomorrow but I'm won't be due to a badly timed injury (hugely disappointed and sad). Nearly every non-runner around me was saying "would I not do it anyway, even if you have to walk a bit?" For real?? The challenge I set myself was to run it and finish within a certain time. I'm no longer fit for it and I'll let myself down if I try to do it now. There's my competitiveness!
    I love getting technical shirts after a race (and the camaraderie of spotting buddies around town) but I do think medals belong to Half/full marathon finishers and the winners of shorter races. Because they've really achieved something not everyone can do. Coloured ribbons for finish times is an excellent idea.

  13. Oh wow! This has me fired up too! I have run a few Color Runs but they are for fun...I've never considered them as a race or something to train for. I love my medals but at every race I try to do my best and have fun doing it. I truly work hard to earn that medal. I love the idea of different colored medals for different times!

  14. Me and my runner friends are TOO competitive!!!! I hate when people make generalizations, publish an article, and pass it off as a fact. The fact is, MORE people in our generation are being healthy and actually running, and the competitive people are welcoming them with open arms. It's not our fault that his generation produced less runners in general and weren't as accommodating to the slower ones. They definitely didn't have marathons with a 6-8 hour time limit back then. HM/Marathon participation are at an all time high!!

  15. I'm competitive and not. It really just depends on who and what I'm competing against/for. I do think we are doing a disservice when we give people awards for everything and there is not really something for the person who actually put in the work to get there because they just get the same thing as everyone else. I know I'm not going to finish first in a race and I don't expect to be given the same amount of kudos as the person who did. I'm a big girl, I can handle it. And it doesn't matter to me if I'm older, younger, or the same age as the person won. I remember one time that my only goal in a race was to beat a 70 year old woman. I didn't care about anyone else, that woman could run and had awesome legs. FYI: I did do it but barely and at the end of the race she congratulated me for beating her. I thought it was awesome. She knew she was a better runner than me and our age didn't have anything to do with it.

  16. There was a study recently lamenting the fact that we are "exercising" more, yet still getting fatter. Which to me, is what is missing in this conversation - regardless of generation. Color Runs and un-timed mud runs are money-making enterprises that are taking advantage of a culture that believes any exercise session is reason enough to party and most people are putting more into the party than the "run".

    Furthermore, the emphasis that many races are now "social" events has resulted in walk heavy strategies, where the easiest route to the participation medal is the preferred route for a chunk of participants. Race Directors have encouraged this because at the end of the day - it's about bringing in money and targeting the "participation" group certainly is working.

    As a Masters Runner I am more focused on looking for some of that speed I had back in my 20's than whom I am passing (or in most cases, who is passing me). And like Kristin (above) I am still trying to break four hours in the marathon, so that is what I am striving for.

    Comment on your comment: The Color Run may not be an endurance event, but for some people a 5K or 10K is THEIR endurance event.

  17. I'm a little confused by your rant.

    You note early on that times in general have been getting slower...then seem to go on a strange tangent where you take the entire thing to be a swipe at younger people? That's...not the point of the article.

    Think about the general trend of races getting bigger. The fact is most people - many of whom are younger - are running newbies that are, well, slow. As a result, the median age of a typical "big" race has gone down. And by in large, the people running these non race events are younger. This is the perspective of the article. It is NOT "ZOMG YOUNG PEOPLE R SLOW AMIRITE?" You're clearly a competitive person, so this is not aimed at people like you. It's aimed at fat people who fill races within hours and consider doing a race a bucket list item who would rather not actually, well, train.

    What I'm getting at: save your righteous indignation for a more worthy target.


  18. BOOM! Whoah, girl. Getting yourself all worked up! Just cuz I beat your lil' ol' bike time...

    No but in all seriousness it's gone to EXTREMES both ways. I see 9-year-old kids training for serious triathlons and then, yes, the weight-loss ladies being proud of 3-hour-half-marathons. [cough]

    I'm totally guilty of both - want my kids to be super prodigies and want to cross things off my bucket list. I think the best thing is to find your strength, push yourself to be your best, but get out of people's way if you find that is not your strength!!

    Because the way Helliker feels about slow runners is probably how I feel when watching American Idol like competitions. GET OUTTA THE WAY!!!

    Good post ;)

  19. Hmm...I guess I can see this both ways. I, for one, enjoy running, but I am nowhere near a master's level athlete. Chances are, I never will be. But does that mean that I shouldn't be able to run a half, or even a full if I train for it? And let me tell you, there's no way in hell that if I finished 26.2 miles, after not being able to run ONE mile at one point in my life, that I don't feel like I'd deserve a medal. Yep, it would never be a medal for being first, second, third, fourth, TENTH, but it would be a medal for getting myself on the road every day, lacing up, and training my body to do something that I consider to be extraordinary.

    It's AWESOME that some people are out there running 5-6 minute miles. I even think those who run 7-8 minute miles are awesome. But just because I'm not fast, I don't appreciate any article making it seem like it's because I'm not competitive, or I'm lazy, and especially that I don't DESERVE to be in the race any more than anyone else. Give me a break and get off your high horse.


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