Saturday, March 15, 2014

Experienced Runners Only

In an effort to grow SEHRC into a bigger club, I have been hosting running meet-ups on the North County Running Meetup.  The tagline for the run is "8-10 mile trail run.  For EXPERIENCED RUNNERS ONLY."

Despite this description, we continue to have people show up, to paraphrase Jimi Hendrix, who are not experienced.  I first believed the fault lay with them.

A couple of weekends ago, we had two runners who took the cake.  The first was a young gentlemen who had signed up onto the meetup site a few days before and referred to himself as a "jogger."  Let's get one thing straight, I ain't no jogger - I'm a runner.  The young man showed up in Vans and a cotton hoodie.  This for a run on trails in the rain.  With him was his father, who was wearing some throwback gray sweatpants from 1982.  This is SoCal, we run in shorts.

Before the run started,  I was my usual abrupt self and pointed out to the young man that he was not wearing running shoes, this was a difficult run and that if the two could not keep up, we would leave them behind and they could get lost.

Not to be dissuaded they came with us anyway.  The dad lasted no more than a mile.  A freaking mile down a hill.  Really?  The son hung with us for three miles, but it was clear he had never run with a group before.  He kept taking point and missing the turns.

At mile three we crossed a swollen creek via a fallen tree.   Our young man seemed to have a fear of water and took about five minutes to cross.  After we crossed, we spent five minutes convincing him he should head back.  We then changed course to head back to a main road so he could find his way back.  We then spent another ten minutes convincing him the rest of the run would be too difficult for him and finally he headed back to the start.

This experience of course rolled around in my brain.  How can I grow the club, but not have knuckleheads show up?  In talking to my boss, she crystalized things for me.  She pointed out that these people are so inexperienced they have no idea what "Experienced Runners" means.  So I defined the term:
(1) completed a half-marathon in under 1:45,(2) completed a marathon in under 4:00,(3) have run over two hours on trail with elevation gains of 2000 feet or more, or(4) completed a run with us.
If you do not fall into one of the above-listed categories, please do not join us, as we reserve the right to prohibit individuals who lack the necessary experience from participating in our runs.  Thank you for your understanding.     
Of course, life is all about the push-pull.  Have I now made it too hard?  Have I shot myself in the foot?  Will no one show up to future runs?

All this got me thinking, what do I want out of this club?  What is my vision.  In the beginning, I thought I wanted to welcome all runners, regardless of ability to the club.  As time has passed, I realized I had no interest in running with people who can't run.  I'm a running snob.  I want a club filled with competitive, elite and pro runners. 

But then, my thoughts fell in the opposite direction.  Why would elite runners run with me?  What do I offer them?  Well, the best trail running in North County.  Beyond that?  Maybe not so much.  They don't need me, other than as a tour guide.

To make this club for the elite, I think I've got to become elite.  Sort of a Fields of Dreams, "build and he will come" mentality.  Runners like runners like themselves.  If I run faster, the faster will come.  One thing though, the Sunday long run is a slow run.  It's not a fast run.  But to grow the club, I think you start with the long, slow run, so people can chat.  As it gets bigger, you add the Saturday speed workouts and Wednesday night tempos.

For the moment, we'll see how it works.  Perhaps the faster will show up and the slower will stay away.  So maybe I'm not a running snob, maybe I'm just a runner who likes to run with people who are experienced.

San Elijo Hills Running Club