I am a runner. I train. I race. I am not a professional runner; this is a hobby. It is a hobby I need to take very seriously. Let me tell you why: race results stay on race sites forever. Runners are obsessed with time. Anyone who has ever raced a particular distance or that course looks at race results. Look at a runner - isn’t he or she always wearing a watch and looking at it?
As a runner, when you register for a race, you get a microchip that you carry with you from the starting line until you cross the finish line. At a minimum, it records your total race time. These results are captured on a laptop and instantly jettisoned to the Internet in the results section of a race website. This data is stored forever. And ever. Many of the larger races, such as marathons, enable viewers to follow runners’ progress on-line as they cross various timing mats throughout the course, so you can effectively track a runner in near real-time.
With technology advances enabling data to be stored on remote servers in a “cloud” model, information (i.e. race results) can be retrieved on any device, anywhere, at any time, including at a race event, on a smart phone via a reliable mobile network. This allows spectators to see where their friends are on the course as the race progresses. A friend of mine has her friends’ race time updates sent to her phone so she can know where we all are on the course as she races us. Incredible. We really are connected everywhere we go. Whether there are tracking mats or just finishing mats along a course, your resulting “split” times and “finishing” times typically wind up on the race web site right next to your name. Did I mention they stay there forever? Same rule applies to ANY data stored on a remote server outside of your control. Social media sites have become the landing pad for product reviews, hotel reviews, restaurant reviews. Once the reviews are posted the best you can do to a negative comment on your product is respond. Make sure you respond in a complete and polite manner. It does not go away.
We are the first generation to have our racing efforts captured digitally. My children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren will be able to access and view my race results. People I have not yet met, who are not yet born, can look me up, see how I did, and make a plan to beat me. So a new era is now born. We, as parents and as racers, are now going to be judged not just by our parenting skills, our ethics, and our careers, but also by how fast we were. Last year I talked several friends into racing a 40-mile ultra-marathon with me for my 40th birthday. I know if my children ever decide they need to run this far, they will undoubtedly look me up to see how fast I ran and how long it took me. And they won’t be doing this to tell their friends about it; they will catalogue that time away in the back of their mind and aim to beat it. During every training run, they will know what it takes to defeat my time. Competition breeds better training.
I am running the Chicago Marathon on October 7th. I can no longer look at it as just a fun recreational race, but rather as a challenge, because whether I want it to be true or not, the results will never go away. I have the responsibility to impress my friends and family on that October day, and I do not want to be an embarrassment for my future generations. Wish me luck! I do aim to make them earn their future victory, when they follow in my footsteps. And if I have a bad day, I am going to wish that the whole data storage concept has selective amnesia.
If you run, if you race, remember: each time you lace up the shoes and show up at the starting line, a gauntlet is being thrown to people you have not even met before. Run fast! Your unborn grandchildren are watching. And you know they will try to beat you!