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September 19, 2006

Mr. 35 - HM - 3 - FT

At last weekend’s triathlon, I was reminded of one aspect of the sport that I keep waiting for running to adopt: writing each competitor’s age on his or her calf.

It seems like a simple detail, but it has an enormous impact on the competitive dynamic of a race.

I wrote in my race report that I was passed twice during the final mile of the run. I also stated that I wasn’t overly concerned, because neither person was in my age group. Given the way I was feeling, I didn’t feel like shifting into battle mode at that point of the race.

What I didn’t say was, I definitely would have fought them if there were age group places at stake. It would have been ugly and nasty and miserable … but I totally would have done it.

And sure, I’m a competitive person, but I’m certainly not alone in this regard. It’s almost like there’s some primal instinct that kicks in when you know you’re getting passed by someone of the same age. Even if there’s not a competition for age group awards, everyone likes to know where they stand among their chronological peers.

It’s natural to compare ourselves to others based merely upon age. But everybody knows that when it comes to race performance, age is usually only half the story.

So why stop with age? Why can’t we write other pertinent information on our legs, so our competitors will better understand exactly who they’re going up against?

During my next race, here’s what I’d like to see on the calves of runners next to me, and what the markings might say about each runner’s ability:

35: Age. For obvious reasons.

M or S: Married or single. Does being married make someone a better runner? On one hand, marriage usually implies a time commitment (at least that’s what I’m told). On the other, it helps to have a support person during strenuous training periods. So this factor is a bit of a wash – maybe we don’t really need it. But what if we could have…

HM or TM: For “Happy Marriage” or “Troubled Marriage.” Wouldn’t a happy runner train more effectively than a stressed-out one? Or does the guy in a bad marriage spend extra time out on the roads to avoid his problems?

(You know what? Let’s just leave marriage out of it. It's too emotionally charged, with too many variables. But there’s no question about…)

3: Number of kids. Put it this way – which woman would you be more impressed by: a 38-minute 10K runner with “0” on her calf, or a 41-minute runner with a “4” there? I rest my case. And I haven’t even mentioned the women with an “S” as well as a “2” – they deserve some sort of prize just for showing up with two matching socks on.

FT: Full-time job. This is the eternal working man’s (or woman’s) complaint: that if he didn’t have to work so many hours per week, he’d have a lot more time for training, and would do much better in races. I was also thinking we could further break this down into ML (manual labor) or CDJ (cushy desk job), but that might start to resemble classism, and I’d be afraid that somebody might get sued.

Anyway, speaking as an FT guy, I empathize with the working stiffs out there – and whether valid or not, I wouldn’t feel nearly as bad about being passed by a guy with PT (part time) or U (unemployed) on his calf.

SLWP: Still Lives With Parents. Honestly, I don’t know how this affects performance, but at least it would give me a chuckle while I’m getting passed by that mama’s boy.

Clearly, there are all sorts of benefits to knowing this information in running events. But why stop there? Why can’t we establish a similar system with other aspects of our lives?

Take your workplace, for instance. Wouldn’t it be great if your coworkers wore labels with this type of personal information? (This is where my idea stumbles a bit, because except for strippers and lifeguards, most people’s calves aren’t visible at work. But we could come up with some alternative – name tags, patches, lapel pins, something. There's got to be a way.)

You would know how many years away your boss is from retirement age, and exactly how young his hood ornament receptionist is. HM-3 guys wouldn’t feel as much pressure to keep up with the S guy who starts putting in 60-hour weeks. And that SLWP thing would be just as funny.

Now imagine if all businesses did this. When you go out for coffee, you would know the relationship status of that cute barista you make up reasons to buy lattes from four days per week. You’d know the real age of your hairdresser who perennially claims she’s only 39. And you might even be more tolerant if you're ever on the receiving end of rude customer service from the TM woman at the bagel shop.

The possibilities are endless, and generally beneficial. Over a period of time, we’d all come to experience heightened awareness and mutual understanding of those around us.

And all it would take is a little bit of body marking.


rick 9/19/06, 12:45 AM  

I'm all for the body markings, I'd like to see "D" for "dating", just cause their single doesn't mean they're available. I've seen some triathletes leave their markings on after a race because they thought it looked cool. Well okay it was us, my YMCA triathlon group and I after our first one - a sprint. Never like the first time.

IM Able 9/19/06, 7:32 AM  

I suggest...

CI = clinically insane
CU = currently undiagnosed

stronger 9/19/06, 8:00 AM  

"D"- Would that be speed dating?

Sarah 9/19/06, 9:46 AM  

Interesting... At least it would be a good mental challenge at mile 25 of a marathon, trying to remember what all the letters mean. : )

olga 9/19/06, 10:13 AM  

Yeah, like when I pass a single non-working dude I am happy and when grandma with FT comes from behind - better start crying or hustle.
No, interesting. I need it to be in a glow-in-the-dark marker as in a 100M it all comes down to night section. Can I put S and flirt so the guys slows down a bit? So then I can charge later while he is planning his D move? Do we put age of the kids too? Like it's different if you have babies (no sleep) vs grade-school kids (easy going) vs teens (no sleep again).
I suggest you patent your idea:)

angie's pink fuzzy 9/19/06, 12:53 PM  

I've missed reading your posts in the last couple of weeks. I always smile!

Cliff 9/19/06, 3:02 PM  

dang..i am a mama's boy..i object to this system...

what i dont' mind though.was to put 'Single and available' under my age...

oh wait..this is a race..not a dating service :)

Bex 9/19/06, 8:27 PM  

I don't think I have enough room on my leg for all of the acronyms. Couldn't mine just be: FAH?

Fat. And. Happy.

backofpack 9/19/06, 8:50 PM  

I like it...I've always wanted to put something like MOWB (medically ordered walk breaks) for everyone who thinks I'm a slacker for walking (did I mention the woman in the 10K who harassed us for walking on the hill? We showed her -when my run timer went off we left her eating dust!). For now though, I'll go with: 48 HM 2 FT

miki 9/20/06, 8:31 AM  

did someone just dare you to use the phrase 'strippers and lifeguards' in a sentence? :D

Deene 9/20/06, 9:33 AM  

good idea but not so much for those of us with skinny legs, maybe a chip implant accessible with a cell ph or broadcasts to the finish line timer.

Robb 9/20/06, 6:18 PM  

Pretty soon we'll be able to cover our bodies with permanent marker. No need for Clima-cool anything! You're onto something.

Mike 9/20/06, 10:16 PM  

Funny stuff Donald! Of course it would drive me nuts trying to keep all the acronyms straight in my head!

Brit 9/21/06, 8:59 PM  

I"m still laughing at I'm able's CI CU but don't get this paragraph. And I haven’t even mentioned the women with an “S” as well as a “2” – they deserve some sort of prize just for showing up with two matching socks on.

BF for Breast Feeding, I mean we're producing food too.

and I agree with Olga I think
INS infant no sleep
TSMH toddler slept on my head should also be clarifying categories

Those SLWP, always make me feel better about myself.

Downhillnut 9/22/06, 5:06 PM  

Loving your posts lately, as always Donald. Very impressed by your recent triathlon effort, too.

I always keep thinking I'll come back and comment when I have something clever to say. And then I don't...


40 HM 2 PT

'cept PT when you're a mom and wife is very, very misleading.

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