Sunday, August 23, 2009

Running: The New Contact Sport?

Today, while I was doing some Sunday afternoon writing, I happened to have the Track and Field World Championships on TV (that might not be its technical name, but it covers what's going on - lots of races, long jump and such - so we'll go with it.) I had the sound muted and was just sorta watching people race around the track as a background visual for when my eyes need to not be looking at the computer screen for a moment.

So it was during one of these moments, that I flicked my eyes up towards the screen just in time to see this woman from Ethiopia take a really nasty fall in the 1500m. Everyone else just sort of ran over her and kept going toward the finish line, which I guess is what you do in that situation, but it was still pretty harsh. On the replay, it showed that right before she fell, the Ethiopian runner got a couple elbows to the chest by some of the other runners. The hell? How is that legal? She couldn't even get up and finish the race. She was just left there on the track, crying in pain. It was crazy.

It was also not an isolated incident. THREE other events I happened to catch featured people throwing hard elbows or taking hard falls on the track. I can see falling in the hurdles or the steeplechase, but that wasn't what I was seeing. These were falls caused by other runners. It seems like in events when you don't have to stay in your lane, running becomes like an Ultimate Fighting Championship.

This made me consider whether or not such elbowing should be allowed in New York Road Runners races. On one hand, it would be a nice way to let the slow pokes who try to jump ahead of their time corral that they best stop getting in the way. On the other hand, I don't want to get elbowed in the ribs as I approach the finish line of a 10K race. So maybe we split the difference and beat up corral jumpers before the race starts and then once the whistle blows we go back to being all civilized. I think I can get behind that.

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