Thursday, November 8, 2012

There are No Magic Shoes


A BMX friend who reads my blogs asked why I had suddenly become interested in running? As many of you now know my long term interest is that of competing in a Triathlon. Even a Sprint Triathlon has a short finishing run as part of the trio of sports. That's what started me on 5K running races. However, they have begun to fascinate me for other reasons.

I never imagined that this would be a part of my life. Having said that, my answer is simple: running is honest, local and cheap. You can't beat that combination of virtues. Allow me to explain.


Let's start with the costs. Most sports are pricey. For the past four years I have been competing in cycling races and they are very expensive. I paid $1,500. for my Fuji Reveal cross country race bike. I paid another $1,000. for all the parts to assemble my Sette Venom downhill bike. This didn't include hundreds of dollars in protective pads, spare parts and repairs. Mountain bikes break down a lot when you ride them hard. All of this adds up to thousands of dollars.

This is all less true for BMX racing. I never paid more than $250. for a bike. A one year membership is $60. The fixes are easier and the race fees range from $8 (local) to $45. (National). It's not bad but one solid season can still be a $900. punch to your wallet.

Running, by comparison, is practically free. I spent $55. on a pair of Adidas trail running shoes and $15. for a one year membership to the Zoomers Running club. The race fees vary but are usually $25. and you only race when you choose, maybe twice a month.


The next issue is travel costs. Racing XC or DH in New England I would have to travel up to 5 hours to reach an event. Racing BMX in Florida some tracks are even further away. The closest BMX tracks to me are 45 minutes in either direction. Not a big deal when gas prices are low but again, just pull out the calculator and put it all together. Even an economical car like my Toyota is starting to get tired.

Running races, by comparison, are right around the corner. My first race 'Howl at the Moon' was a mile and half from my house. I could have run there. I guess there is a lot to be said for enjoying your local organizations.

Better yet, the road is outside your front door. No matter where you live in Florida, you don't have to travel in order to go for a run. You don't need a track or a trail head.


Lastly, running is honest. I know that sounds like a strange virtue to focus on but stick with me. In America the advantages go to the athlete who has the strongest connections, the best equipment and the most opportunities. All of which are afforded with wealth. The athlete who can spring for every race, buy the best bikes and socialize in the right circles, is more often than not, the athlete who wins.

In addition, the cycling sports have loopholes that allow advanced athletes to race at lower skill levels. It's called sandbagging and you will find a lot of it in XC with some in BMX racing. Add to this the politics of track management or sanctioning bodies and even best of athletes get frustrated. These minor offenses can discourage new riders from further participation. When basic unfairness goes unresolved long enough it can drive people away.

By contrast, in running competitions there is no way to sandbag and there are no politics. There are no advantages that can be bought with wealth. Money can't make you run faster. Social connections won't improve your time. There are no magic shoes. 


Sorry about the long explanation but I want people to be aware of all the options they have. No matter what sport you pick there are certain realities best understood by experience. Every sport has its upsides and downfalls but you should know what you are getting into.

Having recently been involved in a range of sports I was happy to find one that is clear of such obstacles. Running has more benefits than most and at a lower sticker price. The equipment is minimal, the atmosphere is relaxed, the costs are reasonable. The field is wide open, the competition is fair and the road is always waiting.


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