During my time sitting around the house, I couldn't help but notice my Facebook wall was filled with people participating in the Color Run in downtown Pittsburgh today. I would say nearly a dozen of my Facebook friends, none of them "runners" on any other day of the year, were suddenly seen downtown in what appeared to be new, expensive running attire. Pictures were taken before, during, during, during, and after the event to ensure full documentation of the running experience. (Full disclosure, I've taken pictures during races before, but typically only during longer 10, 13, or 26 mile events). While I should probably be happy that more and more people are getting exercise and participating in these races, I can't help but get annoyed at the color-fication of running. It seems like more and more, running is becoming less about training, exercise, and speed, and more about a candy-coated fashion statement designed to turn even the shortest distances into occasions for celebrations. Twenty years ago, 5Ks and 10Ks, and especially half/full marathons were usually only populated by those actually interested in the racing. Now, there's Color Runs, Warrior Dashes, Fun-Runs, Race/Walks, Tough Mudders, and all kinds of events designed to attract people interested in the frills, rather than the event itself. Even six years ago when I first got back into running, all of these events were far less common, but today it seems like everyone has run a warrior dash, color run, holiday 5K, and half-marathon by the time they turn 35.
Now once again, I did nothing of value today, nor did I have any intention of running this race this morning, but it's a symptom of trend that is less than desirable. When I registered for the Great Race in mid-August this year, I found it was sold out. Six weeks before the race, and over 10,000 spots were already sold. These spaces weren't taken by legions of dedicated racers, they were taken by the Color-Runners, convinced that their new, expensive running attire needed to be shown off at multiple events. I know, because I went down to the race and watched. People who actually trained and raced for solid times were sitting about by the super-novices had taken over. It's a trend which has swelled immensely in the past few years, and I can't help but wonder where it stops. Where does the "race inflation" end? How long before a half-marathon is the new 5K and a full marathon on everyone's bucket list? By making everything easy, colorful, fashionable, and slow, it's taken the achievement away from those who ran legitimately in the past.
It's true, aside from running I'm not really an athlete. There's likely many super-athletes who lump me in with the color-runners. Perhaps twenty years ago, I wouldn't have had the ability to run a marathon either as it was a club reserved for the crazy and the super-dedicated. Still, the trend has shifted considerably in the past few years and shows no sign of stopping. And no, this isn't just about races. Everywhere you look, there's a rush to make everything simple, approachable, attainable, and marketable. College degrees have super-saturated the market. Graduate school is not just more prevalent, but far easier and accessible. Technology makes access to objects, knowledge, and ideas so simple that there's far less value in memory anymore. Perhaps the meek will inherit the earth, but it leaves little left for the mighty.
It all reminds of Syndrome's famous quote from The Incredibles "Everyone will be super, everyone! And when everyone's super...no one will be."