Courtesy (In Ultra Races)
Courtesy is defined, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, as a polite behavior that shows respect for other people; something that you do because it is polite, kind, etc.; or something that you say to be polite especially when you meet someone.
I am going to apply the word “courtesy” to some of the actuations or actions of ultra runners in my races. I mean, on the actions of some ultra runners that are considered as violation of courtesy in ultra races.
Good Manners & Right Conduct in ultra races or for that matter, in any running event is Common Sense. However, in this post/blog, I would like to be specific in one of the actuations of runners which is both cool and at the same time unfavorable action as seen and perceived by others.
This is the practice of overtaking or passing a runner in the last few meters before the Finish Line in an Ultra Running Event. Personally, it is my understanding that an Ultra Running Event is NOT a Sprinting Event. Having said this, Sprinting on your last 10 or 20 meters before the Finish Line is a BIG “No-No” to me, more so, if you intend to pass a runner ahead of you before finally crossing the Finish Line.
In one of the early editions of the PAU Tanay 50K Ultra Run, one of the “newbie” ultra runners (I think, this was his first 50K/Ultra Run) was passed by an “older and more experienced” ultra runner on the last 50 meters before the Finish Line. Since I know personally these two runners, I just observed and listened for their feedbacks. The “older and more experienced” ultra runner just smiled and kept silent until the event was over. The “newbie” was mad and sad that somebody had overtaken him on the last few meters of the race. (Both runners don’t know each other personally up to this time). The “newbie” ultrarunner, due to his frustration, never came back for another ultra running event. He is now an Ironman!
In the PAU National 110K Championship Run in Guimaras last year, a “hardcore” PAU ultra runner was overtaken by a local elite runner on the last 40 meters before the Finish Line! The PAU Ultra Runner was leading the whole race not until he was challenged by the passing local runner for a “sprint” on the last 40 meters to the Finish Line. What added to the sadness and frustration of the PAU Runner was that there was a video on how this local elite runner passed him and it was posted on Facebook. The PAU Runner had become wiser and smarter in his succeeding ultra races after that experience.
In the 1st Manila To Baguio 250K Ultra Run (Single Stage), another runner chased a leading runner ahead of him on the last 50 meters to the Finish Line. The runner who was passed could not believe that the chasing runner had the nerve to pass him on the last few meters of the race. I have yet to settle the differences of these two ultra runners in my future races as their competition with each other continues.
In this year’s Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race, an older Lady Runner complained and told me a story about another younger Lady Runner congratulating her for being able to finish the race with barely 2 kilometers more to go before the Finish Line. The younger Lady Runner would tell to the older one that she will give way for her to finish the race ahead. However, on the last 100 meters before the Finish Line, the younger Lady Runner was running hard and fast, and had overtaken the older Lady Runner before crossing the Finish Line. The older Lady Runner came to me and told me about the incident. She was mad and furious but I told her that what matters most is that she finished the race without any injury or any “issues”. She has to move on and forget about the said incident. Lately, she told me that she will be back for the next year’s edition of the BDM 102 and her goal will be to improve her finish time.
Any ultra runner can relate to this kind of experience in running events. I know that all running events are considered as RACES where one has to be faster than the others in crossing the Finish Line. But in ultra running, it is not the competition that is most important but it is on the journey, the experience, and the camaraderie/friendship that develops during and after the race matter most. Finishing the Ultra Running Event is the most important objective/goal of an Ultra Runner within the prescribed cut-off time! The Finish Time is just secondary goal for record purposes and as a point of reference if one has the objective to improve in his/her performance in its future edition.
In my experience, when somebody would like to keep in step with my pace during the race and the runner is much younger than my age, I would be happy and think that I am already winning over him during the race. Since I don’t have anything more to prove to this younger runner who is in pace with me, I would allow him/her to finish first and for me to have my pace slower before I cross the Finish Line. Of course, showing a big smile before crossing the Finish Line is a must. Before you knew it, the one you allowed to cross the finish line ahead of you, will be turning back towards you with a smile and the words, “Thank You, Sir”!
This runner will never forget you and he will be your avid fan in running…forever!