It sounds somewhat crude for a generally thought of altruistic all-supporting athletic pursuit as Endurance Running. But that a pecking order exists, which includes even the most isolated of runners, is indeed factual. That this pecking order is one that inspires and elevates as opposed to being based on a more traditional hierarchical view of supremacy is something I would also staunchly posit based on my own experience in our sport.
Put simply, everyone has someone that he or she looks up to. I want to run like B. Who in turn wants to run like Q. Who in turn looks up to A. And so on. There are even, dare I say it, likely to be runners who aspire to run like I do.
But here’s where the fun comes in. Rather than being a sport where those higher up look down on those who are slower, we each seem intrinsically called upon to cheer each other on and we each answer that call without fail. We genuinely want to see our cohorts succeed at their own goals. As opposed to being threatened by another’s success, the stronger runners are invariably more than willing to share tips, encourage, and applaud the not-yet-as-strong.
You see it all the time. The Elite cheering on the Boston Qualifiers. The Boston Qualifiers cheering on those who are knocking on the door to their on BQ dreams. All the way down to the entire field fervently pulling for the last place finisher to cross the line. For last place, far from being ignoble, is still very much a heroic achievement. It still shows a depth of determination, of doggedness, of will to overcome.
And I would assert too that this relationship of support is inherently reciprocal. That those who are slower are also sources of inspiration to those who are faster. For improvements, by anyone, are not merely the fruits of hard labour; they are the very portents of potential and possibility. When others succeed, it inspires belief in each of us that so too can we.
We are our own heroes, we runners.
Congratulations one and all.