Boston Deferrals Need to HTFU

Look, I get that it was unseasonably warm on Monday and that it made for hotter than usual Boston Marathon race conditions, but deciding not to race or deferring to next year because you didn’t like the temperature is just laughable. If you’re elite or athletic enough to be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you can deal with a hot race. There are thousands of runners who would have killed to race on Monday, regardless of the conditions, and you’re telling me that you’re too big a diva to run when it gets to the mid-80s? Gimme a break.

A higher than usual percentage of racers (3,863) didn’t even bother showing up to pick up their numbers this year. Obviously a portion of the no-shows could be folks who had injuries (as was the case of a friend of mine who tore her hamstring and was unable to race) or had a situation pop up where they couldn’t race (a family emergency, work conflict, etc), but the rate was higher than in previous years. Of the 22,426 runners who did show up to pick up their numbers, 427 deferred, which is even worse than not bothering to show up in the first place. You travel all the way to Boston, pick up your number, and then decide that you’re going to chump out and run next year in the hopes that temperatures will be more to your satisfaction? Ridiculous.

Yes, I know it was hot. I know it was uncomfortable. I know that overall times were slower than previous years and that more people were treated for heat-related ailments (cramping, exhaustion, overheating). But that’s the nature of racing. You sign up for a race not knowing what’s going to come your way. You can do the training and prepare for it as best you can, but there are certain factors you can’t control on race day that you just have to deal with. Do you think the 2011 Ironman Canada athletes wanted to race in upper-90 degree heat all day? Obviously not, but they showed up at the start line and powered their way through like champs, and they raced 140.6 miles in adverse conditions, not just 26.2. Do you think Ironman Louisville athletes want to spend an entire day pushing themselves through ungodly heat and humidity, or that Ironman Coeur d’Alene athletes want to swim 2.4 miles in a ball-shrinkingly frigid lake?

Did I want to race Costa Rica in the searing sunshine and come home with absurd tan lines? Did I want to battle ridiculous crosswinds at Ironman Boise 70.3 in 2010? Did I want to run through a windy monsoon during the Seattle Half Marathon this past year? No. Hell no. But you know what? I gritted my teeth and persevered, just as the Ironman Canada, the Louisville, and the Coeur d’Alene athletes did and just as every athlete should.

Boston was hard this year. Harder than usual, I’m sure. PRs were shot, everyone was uncomfortable, it was a miserable day. But if you sign up for a race and aren’t prepared to deal with the potential curveballs that go along with it, you shouldn’t race at all because clearly you’re not cut out for it. You’re kidding yourself if you expect all of your races to have perfect weather, perfect race conditions, and that you’ll post a PR. You’re delusional if you think you’ll never get a flat tire, experience gut rot, be forced to endure wind or rain or snow or heat, and that everything will be hunky dory for you.

The challenges behind racing are more mental than physical. The people who opted not to run or deferred because they were intimidated by the heat were defeated without even having to step foot on the course. You don’t share stories with your friends about the training days or the races that went perfectly, you take pride in and talk about the times when you rode your bike through a hail storm or you crossed the finish line after puking your guts out for 26 straight miles. It’s the tough workouts and races that stick with you, the ones that kick the shit out of you but you emerge from stronger and victorious. If I ran Boston this year, I’d be proud as hell to have crossed the finish line under tough conditions, regardless of my time.

If you can’t stand the idea of a race’s conditions slowing your otherwise fast self down, check your ego. If you’re worried about Mother Nature making things difficult for you, harden the fuck up. It’s not your tempo runs or your weekly mileage or your chia seeds or your stupid toe shoes that will get you across the finish line, it’s your mental toughness. Everyone has to deal with the weather on race day, not just you, and the difference is how you handle yourself when variables are thrown your way. The people who showed up and ran on Monday sure as hell didn’t want to run in the heat, but, to quote a teammate of mine, they were “doing work and gettin’ it done.” The ones who didn’t punked out because they lack mental toughness and because they were plagued with doubt and fear. It wasn’t the heat that ruined them that day, it was themselves. Don’t be a deferral. Be a racer.

13 Responses to “ “Boston Deferrals Need to HTFU”

  1. Sean says:

    agreed. I suck at racing in the heat, but I would not be dropping or deferring (which only reduces the number of spots available for people who deserve to race next year!) just because it’s warm.

    78f by the finish for the elites. That’s 25.5c (for those of us north of the border).

    Big hairy fucking deal.

    95f (35c) in Osoyoos last year for the Desert Half Iron. I heard a lot of people bitch about it (including myself) but not a one that I know decided not to race because it was “warm”.

    Perhaps triathletes are a bit more mentally tough 😉

  2. Fucking-A. That’s all I have to add here.

  3. Speedy says:

    or as Mark wisely posted on FB . . . go run

    Heck of a day! very much like Boise, very proud to finish :o)

  4. Diana says:

    This is a metaphor for life in general — it’s the tough times when we power through and meet the challenges head-on that make us “stronger and victorious” and give us the stories to pass on to our grandchildren. If you’re interested in becoming a motivational speaker, I have a handful of 7th graders that you can talk to. . .

  5. bets says:

    I hear ya! Saw a post that estimated 400 athletes didn’t show up for the NOLA 70.3 last weekend…many likely because it was changed to a du. So, it wasn’t quite what you expected, but at least there was a race/event!

  6. Greg says:

    “427 deferred, which is even worse than not bothering to show up in the first place”

    First of all, I applaud everyone who gutted it out under those conditions. I ran Chicago ’10 in temps over 80, so I can relate.

    I am currently recovering from a spinal stress fracture, which was preventing me running from this year’s race, though I had registered. I was travelling to Boston from NYC to support my teammates, when I got wind of the deferral option. Of course, I took the deferral. I’m sure you would have done the same in my position.

    Perhaps you should have thought of situations like this before generally calling out every single one who chose to defer.

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m going to have to give you an ‘F’ for reading comprehension and write “See me after class” on your paper:

      “Obviously a portion of the no-shows could be folks who had injuries (as was the case of a friend of mine who tore her hamstring and was unable to race) or had a situation pop up where they couldn’t race (a family emergency, work conflict, etc), but the rate was higher than in previous years.”

      I specifically mentioned that some no-shows or deferrals could be folks who had an injury or a situation arise where they were unable to race that year. My friend tore her hamstring and wasn’t able to run this year, but when she found out organizers were letting weak-ass runners who feared the heat defer to next year, she deferred so she could run healthy. I didn’t fault those folks in my post, I was specifically criticizing people who were whining about the heat and didn’t want to race because of it.

      • Greg says:

        My comprehension is fine. You specifically mentioned no-shows in the sentence you highlight about injuries in your reply, not deferrals. The following sentence accuses the 427 deferrals of being worse than the no shows. You mentioned 427 – all of them. It read like you felt all of them pussied out. I both showed up to pick up my bib and deferred. So, by your logic, or at least the way you conveyed it, I was worse then a no show.

        I completely agree that every one that was 100% ready to race on Monday should have faced the heat. I ran this race the past 5 years, and, if healthy, I definitely would have run. I just had an issue with that one general statement.

        • Rebecca says:

          I wrote that part assuming that readers would be able to deduce from my earlier comment that I meant the folks who showed up healthy to race, picked up their bibs, and decided to defer because of the heat were being babies. I wasn’t referring to those who deferred due to injury or legitimate reasons. I don’t think you’re a loser or weak-minded for deferring (though I’m starting to get the impression that you’re overly sensitive, especially when it comes to what a complete stranger says on her crappy personal blog).

  7. Sabrina says:

    Honestly, I’m willing to bet that MOST of the deferrals were injured runners, not heat-avoiders. I’m one of them. I had my trip to Boston planned with the whole family, I ended up injured (stress reactions, haven’t run for 5 weeks now), we went anyway. I would have picked up my bib regardless (hey, I paid $150 for that tech shirt!) but I got incredibly lucky with the heat deferral.

    Watching the race, we sat next to another deferral-due-to-injury. And both of us were certain that, injury-free, we would have run no matter the temperature. You run the race in the situation you’re given, just like you said.

    But the point is, I’m quite certain that of the 427 deferrals, very few were being babies about the heat.

    • Rebecca says:

      A good chunk of them were probably injured runners, but some of them could have been due to the heat. Actually, you could argue that all of them were due to the heat because the heat is the reason why the organizers offered the deferral in the first place. Even if most of the athletes who deferred did so because of an injury, the underlying culprit was the heat; otherwise, the deferral wouldn’t have been an option.

      I personally think the organizers shouldn’t have allowed deferrals in the first place. I get that they were worried about having another Chicago Marathon situation and liability and whatnot, but the temperature wasn’t Badwater-esque or anything, and athletes should go into a race ready to start no matter the conditions. Obviously there are some exceptions (water is dangerously cold, thunderstorms that present a real risk to athletes, tornado warnings, etc) but upper 80’s is pretty weaksauce.

  8. Jill says:

    I love you. That is all.

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