Do you know what the definition of controversy is? When you make a general statement about a large group based on the actions of a few. For example, a news report is when you report on the mis-doings of the executives at Enron. But controversy is when you say that all CEOs are corrupt and evil. A news report is when you say some people cheated at a marathon. Controversy is when you say a lot of slow marathoners are also cheaters, particularly if they run for a charity group.
Generalizations are a VERY dangerous thing. To blanketly categorize all charity runners as slow and/or cheaters is not fair. It wasn't too many years ago that generalizations were made about women completing endurance events because 3 women fell down from exhaustion at the end of the 800 meters in the Olympics in the early part of the century. It wasn't until many years later that the Olympics opened up more endurance events to women.
I wonder what the online message boards in 1980 would have looked like (if they existed) after Rosie Ruiz was caught cheating in the Boston Marathon. How many self-proclaimed real runners (probably male) would be saying that we need to go back to the good old days of a "male only" Boston because a woman cheated? One can only guess.
Do not paint broad strokes of negative criticism of charity runners because some purple singlets were seen cutting the course along with Jeans Marines. Do not discredit the thousands and thousands of runners who completed their FIRST marathon through a charity group. My first marathon was with TNT. That was 36 marathons ago. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a TNT alumni at a local race, at a local running club event, or at a marathon. TNT is a very good "feeder system" into the local running community.
TNT coaches have NEVER been encouraged to cheat or take shortcuts. In fact, the coaches not only have the responsibility to make sure participants are well prepared, but they are in an event that fits their ability. How do I know? I've been a coach for several years.
Again, it is easy to paint broad strokes and say "TNT coaches do this..." or "TNT coaches do that...". Such generalizations are again unfair. Are there bad TNT coaches out there? Of course there are. But my experience is that they are in the minority. Is a running class offered by the local running store automatically a better training program because there is no fundraising involved? I doubt it. It depends on the individual program and the person running the program doesn't it.
My job as a coach is to not only make sure they are well prepared, but run with proper ettiquette as well. If I see my people near the starting line in a large race and they can't run a sub 7:00 mile, I make them move back. If I see them running 3-abreast on the trail I ask them to run single file so as to not block the trail. If they choose to take walk breaks I teach them how to "shoulder check" before stopping so no one has a collision. And the list goes on.
But perhaps the most difficult job a TNT coach has is to pull someone off the race course because they either can't finish the race in the allotted time or they are having health difficulties. I'm proud to say this hasn't happened very often. But if the situation calls for it, I won't hesitate putting a participant on the sag wagon bus or pulling them off the course. And I tell them, "Its ok. There WILL be another race and a chance to get a medal" I don't escort them to the finish line and let them finish with everyone else. As a matter of fact, 3 years ago when I went through a training course to become a TNT coach, we were taught how to pull someone off a course, not how to escort them to the finish line to get their medal.
I will forever be grateful to the many race directors who bend over backwards for slower runners, charity or not. Over the years races have added half marathons and early starts to their race offerings. Thank you. This only helps to grow our sport, no matter who's singlet you choose to wear on race day.
So I have to take exception with the phrase, "The deep dark secret of charity groups". Where is the evidence that this unethical behavior is done on a large scale? It is only anecdotal at best.
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