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Want to Win Your Age Group? Consider Smoking Crack

Posted by on Apr 7, 2012 | 6 Comments

You know the problem.  You wish you were faster.  You say you run races just for the experience.  That smile and the beer in hand are just a facade hiding that deep-seated desire to run really, really fast.  You secretly fantasize about posting that age group win on Facebook so all your friends will envy you.  If only you were faster.

Some people train hard.  Some people have natural talent.  Some people just get lucky sometimes.  What can you do if you’re lazy, unlucky, genetically inferior?  It’s hardly fair you don’t get a piece of the action.  So what can you do?

Start smoking crack.

That’s right, score some yam and light up a few minutes before the race.  Nancy Reagan be damned, you have a race to win!  There’s a great chance the powerful stimulant effect will result in your best performance to date.  Additionally, the dopamine flood will assure the race will be enjoyable.  When’s the last time you ran a race that was borderline orgasmic?

The Real Issue

I’ve always wondered about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the world of recreational running.  It makes sense if the pros are using PEDs as there’s significant monies involved.  But what about those that are just shooting for a PR or a win in an insignificant local race?  Would people use steroids or illegal stimulants to gain an upper hand?

Seems a little silly, doesn’t it?

Or is it?  We already do things to boost our performances.  We use things that give us an edge but are legal?  I drink Red Bull in ultras to give me a boost and ward of sleep.  Lots of people use OTC pain meds.  Isn’t that basically the same?  Where do we draw the line?

We could use the legality argument… but that’s a slippery slope.  Caffeine is legal, but can be taken in doses that produce a stronger effect than other illegal stimulants.  Regarding pain meds, is there a difference between OTC ibuprofen and prescription strength ibuprofen?  What about the opiates?  Is Vicodin okay?  Most would say no, but what if it were prescribed?

This argument could even be taken to the gear we use.  Jesse Scott and I had a conversation last year about Hokas.  The shoes more or less eliminate the need to develop skill when trail running by turning trails into roads.  This is a sizable advantage for people using Hokas.  Is that a form of cheating?  If it is, then wouldn’t any shoe be considered cheating because it provides an advantage over being barefoot?

How about something like following a course?  I ran a 12 hour race a few years ago where a few people ran on the inside of the track despite the RD explicitly stating it was against the rules.  I’ve also watched people cut corners in races, or turn around prematurely on an out-and-back.  Clearly some are willing to break the rules to boost apparent performance.

Should governing bodies ban any of this stuff, much like the Olympics does?  Or should we leave it up to athletes to follow their own moral compass.

I don’t have good answers for any of these situations, but I do like to think about it.  Our society has a knack for drawing black and white lines dividing areas that are infinite shades of gray, and I’m always interested to see where others like to draw lines.

Share your thoughts in the comments section.  What do you think about the use of performance enhancers in recreational sports?  Where do you draw your own personal line?



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  1. Rob Y
    April 9, 2012

    I don’t you could argue banning the use of Hokas any more than you could ban fat tires on mountain bikes; they’re purpose is the same. You still have to have the legs and lungs to power those Hoka wearing feet!

    It’s actually a lot easier to win your age group at a race. With the boon on running that is occurring all you need to do is cherry pick a small race at an obscure location that may coincidentally be on the same date as a bigger, more competitive event. While this is no guarantee, it certainly improves your chances if that’s your thing.

    As for actual cheating? What goes around comes around and those folks are usually dealt with in some fashion.

  2. Thomas
    April 9, 2012

    A very interesting discussion. At the end of the day, and of the race, its only about being true to yourself. Asking oneself, did I earn this? Whether it is a PB or a good position in a race.
    For us “rich, white, middle-aged, recreational runners in the western world” it is not that important, after all a PB or a good position will not change our life. But for a poor runner from Kenya it is a different situation. A PB or a good position in a race could change the life for him and for his family. There is more at stake. So my admiration for them being honest to themselves are higher than for the rest of us.

  3. Jesse
    April 8, 2012

    Its weird that some things can be taken for granted as “acceptable.” I used to run exclusively barefoot after an accident shattered my kneecap. Once I developed a form that allowed me to wear shoes without pain, I used them to cover longer distances. After winning a race, I got some flak from barefoot purists for “selling out” after winning a 50mile. To some, shoes are cheating. To others, doping isn’t. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks I guess.

  4. Erik
    April 8, 2012

    Just say no to ultras. I know a couple who sold their home and quit their jobs to support their habit.

  5. Chris O'Driscoll
    April 7, 2012

    My performance enhancing drug is called health. Live, eat and train in a healthy way so your body can naturally perform at it’s best.

    Any cheats out there, especially those who turn early on an out and back are just cheating themselves. A few years down the track they will realise they never really achieved anything great, as hollow victories never last.

  6. Franklin Chen
    April 7, 2012

    I might drink some tea the morning of a race (and yes, it tends to help), but other than that, as a recreational runner, that’s as far as I go toward “enhancement” (if you don’t count optimizing pre-race breakfast, wearing my lightest shoes, warming up, trying to get better sleep in the previous two days, etc.).

    I have to confess to feeling enraged when in a road race someone just in front of me suddenly cuts a street corner with no shame and opens up a lead on me. I think to myself, I’m not going to do that even if it costs me some dinky age group prize.