My fastest race ever was the one I didn’t run.
A few years ago, I registered for a trail race in New Hampshire: the Jack London 10K, named for the author of “The Call of the Wild.”
It was in another state. On Nov. 1. Can anyone see the problem here? Captain Oblivious here didn’t, and so yes, I paid money to run a race in another state early on the morning after Halloween.
And no, I didn’t make it. But amazingly enough, I ran my personal best!
A few months later, a friend spotted my name on the list of finishers. I’d finished in 49:26, a pace just under eight minutes a mile.
Had I actually run this race, I would have petitioned the Vatican to deem this a miracle. But of course, someone just picked up my lonely bib and ran with it, literally and figuratively. Technically, yes, that made him or her a bandit, but I don’t care. If I can’t make a race, I’m happy to have someone run in my place, particularly if they’re going to make me look good, but race directors who forbid the transfer of numbers make this difficult for those of us inclined to generosity.
They do it for safety and liability issues, I know. Still, runners are such a dedicated lot, the percentage of people who don’t show has to be small. I wonder why we can’t give away numbers if both the giver and the givee sign a release. Why can’t we legalize bib-swapping?
This weekend, for example, I’m registered to run in the Kiawah Island Half-Marathon in South Carolina, but I can’t make it because I waited too late to book a flight, and now I can’t afford to get there. I’d love to let a friend who lives in Charleston run instead, or open it up to any Salty who lives in the South, but most races require ID at packet pickup. (That’s not stopping one registrant who is injured, but has put his or her bib up for sale on Craigslist for $75.)
Unwilling to enter the shady world of back-alley bib exchanges, my options are: A) drive 17 hours straight and pray I can still run, or B) pay a $20 fee to defer and hope I can make it next year or C) Do nothing, and let my packet be looted by race officials.
Don’t like any of them. I’d rather give my bib away. How about you?
Salties, what do you do when you can’t make a race? Is it time for race directors to let us buy and sell bibs in the marketplace?