Dear reader, are you a good runner?
No, not good as in "fast and strong." I mean good as in "moral and ethical."
A recent article got me thinking about this. The article, on RunnersWorld.com, is titled Badwater Application Asks Runners: Are You a Good Human Being?
The article begins:
The Badwater ultramarathon, a 135-mile run from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney every July, is open for registration. Race organizers aren’t just looking for any runners, though. ... They want athletes with a history of completing ultras. And they want good people to fill the 100-person field.
It then goes on to list a few of the questions Badwater applicants must answer. For instance:
What percentage of your athletic peers (not just your friends, but the wider circle of athletes who know you, or know of you) would say that YOU are a Good Human Being and Good Sportsman/woman?
Who is your Favorite Author and/or Your Favorite Book?
Admit it: Even just reading that, you're tempted to say, "Well, I guess my favorite author would have to be God, and my favorite book the Holy Bible," aren't you? Like some sort of phony baloney beauty pageant contestant or politician? You are. And you should be ashamed of yourself. That is precisely the sort of chicanery the organizers of Badwater do not need at their event. Good day to you, sir.
Or ma'am. Whichever.
While we're at it, you can also admit that as you read that you were judging whoever wrote those questions for their Use of Random Capitalization. Didn't you?
This particular event aside, though, I find this fascinating, for a few reasons.
1. It never occurred to me to gauge the goodness of runners. I suppose because, in my experience, the overwhelming majority of runners are very decent people. It sort of goes without saying.
2. Isn't talking about your own goodness a little... unseemly?
3. How effective can this approach be? Does anyone expect a horrible human being to get halfway through this application, see the "are you a Good Human Being" question, then walk away, saying, "Welp, that counts ME out"? By definition, if you are a bad human being you won't think twice about lying about your badness.
4. Assuming you're even conscious of it. Which you probably aren't. Also in my experience, very few assholes know they're assholes. They think they're just fine.
Still, I appreciate what the Badwater folks are trying to do here. I just think that if they, or any event organizers, are looking to weed out Bad Human Beings they could benefit from some sharper, more revealing questions.
If I were looking to separate the good runners from the bad, here's what I would ask:
When you finish an energy gel during a run, do you:
a. Tuck the empty package into a pocket until you reach a garbage can.
b. Drop it on the ground.
c. Stuff it down the throat of a baby bird that's fallen from its nest.
Do you believe that banditing a race is OK?
a. No, it's stealing.
b. Yes, if you start in the back and don't take water, a medal, etc.
c. Yes, and I grab as much free stuff as I can along the way, including banners and scaffolding. Because corporate greed.
Have you ever tried on shoes at a specialty running store, then gone home and ordered the same pair online?
a. No, that's awful. People do that?
b. Yes. Because corporate greed.
c. Oh my God, that is brilliant. Why didn't I think of that before?
During your run a motorist rolls through a stop sign, nearly hitting you before screeching to a halt. Do you:
a. Wave and smile at the motorist, who you can tell is startled and sheepish.
b. Shout and gesture angrily, possibly slapping the car's hood or trunk.
c. Fake an injury, sue the motorist, and, via court records, steal his identity so you can apply for multiple credit cards in his name, allowing you to try on dozens of pairs of shoes at specialty running stores before going home and using these bogus credit cards to order the shoes online.
When you enter the starting corral of a large race, do you:
a. Find the pace-per-mile sign that best reflects my current level of fitness.
b. Elbow your way toward the front of the field.
c. Elbow your way toward the front of the field—but not too far front, because then the race director could see that you don't have a bib number.
Have you ever published a satirical online article that irritated organizers of a well-known endurance event?
a. Gawrsh, no!
c. I may have done it twice now.
If you answered mostly "A"s, you are a good runner. If you answered mostly "B"s, you are not.
Mostly "C"s? You are bad beyond redemption.