More on 'Everyone's a Winner'
I appreciate all of the comments on my last blog. There have been a lot made with a wide array of points of view. But, unfortunately, it appears that what I said has been taken the wrong way by many readers. That's my fault; not yours. I simply used to many words to try to explain a rather simple point. I'll try again only more succinctly this time around.
My concern was that all of us (athletes and non-athletes) subtly encourage everyone to do the longest events as if some how they are the 'true' endurance events. For example, if a running race offers both a 5km and a 10km there is almost always pressure to enter the 10km. You may even hear runners' comments, often in a joking way but nevertheless revealing what they feel, that 'real' runners do the longer events.
I was trying (apparently not very successfully) to make the point that this is also starting to happen in triathlon. It's not very healthy for triathlon. Finishing an Ironman has become the ultimate goal in the sport. It wasn't that way back in the 1980s when triathlon was new. Then the US Triathlon Series was a big deal in this country. Placing high in your age group, posting a fast time, and perhaps even qualifying for the National Championship was considered to be a goal every bit as worthy as finishing an Ironman. I hear of far fewer people setting such goals any more. That's too bad. Going fast is very challenging in itself and very rewarding when accomplished ('fast' in relation to the athlete only - not to some absolute time for everyone).
I should also clarify that I have no problem with people simply wanting to finish a race as their only goal. That's often necessary for those new to a distance as was the goal of my client's 70.3 race this past weekend (which, by the way, he finished with an outstanding performance in many regards). I gave the same advice to a pro I once coached who was doing his first Ironman. Finish. But after that the challenge becomes to improve on one's performance. This is when entering to simply finish does not seem like a worthy challenge any more. It's like a runner setting a seasonal goal to break 40 minutes in the 10k even though he's done it many times before. I see no satisfaction in repeatedly setting a goal such as that.
Competition has been diluted in age group running events because of this longer-is-better attitude. An example of this is Boston Marathon qualifying times. In 1983 for a male, age 40 the standard was 2:50. Now it's 3:20. Triathlon hasn't gotten to this point yet. Age group times are still improving at the Ironman distance. That was the same for the marathon back in the 1980s. But 15 years later that had changed. Triathlon can only avoid this dilution of performance by encouraging athletes, especially novices, to participate at whatever distance motivates them. Longer is not necessarily better.
(Gosh, I used a lot of words this time, too. Let's see if I made sense this go.)