I spent a few minutes this afternoon prior to my run watching the Olympic “sprint” biathlon (how is a 25 minute race over 6.2 miles a sprint?). I was stunned by what I saw.
The race had staggered starts, much like an orienteering race, so the racers were on the course over a period of hours, even though any one competitor was on the course less than 30 minutes. But it snowed a wet, heavy snow beginning about 45 minutes into the race, which effectively eliminated the middle and later starters from medal competition since the conditions precluded them from skiing as fast as the earlier starters. Is that fair?
The only answer is, yes, it is fair since the starting times were known in advance and were non-prejudicial. But the conditions did not lead to results which were comparable. And that’s too bad.
What does this have to do with running, particularly distance running and marathoning? I think there’s a clear tie. I am working toward running the 2011 Houston Marathon with the sole goal being to qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon. I am putting in the time, the miles, the sweat, the pains, and the diet to make this happen. But I have no idea what the weather will be like on January 30, 2011, in downtown Houston. And if the weather is like today (70 degrees and humid) I will have difficulty making my goal, thus jeopardizing all the prior work.
Is that fair? Of course it is. I understand the issues in play, just like the biathletes on TV. I suppose the difference is that I could sign up for another marathon following the Houston Marathon and try to qualify in that one while I was still in superlative condition, and the Olympians must wait another four years for this particular moment, but we still train without full knowledge of how difficult the day will be for our goals.
Yet still we run on, for whatever reasons. It’s the human condition, eh?