So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Will Not Lie Down. I Will Not Go Quietly.

A gentleman was upset at being slowed down on his church commute by the Pensacola Marathon (Feb 22, 2009), and wrote this letter to the Pensacola News-Journal:

"Is it fair to promote one business, sport or industry at the expense and inconvenience of the community? This issue has been an ongoing traffic problem in our city for more than 20 years; but it is not a traffic problem. The city police block entire roads for hours, even in the rain, inconveniencing hundreds of people going about their business. Our area has 15 or more nice running tracks that were designed for running. These tracks have never been used by cars or trucks. We use city streets for cars and trucks. What would the response be if we drove our cars and trucks on running tracks? Just my point. Keep runners off streets that were designed and made for cars and trucks, and these motorists will not drive on running tracks that were designed for running. Common sense is not common at all, especially when it involves planning."

Here’s my take, submitted to the PNJ today:

"Running is the simplest of sports. It requires relatively little equipment for the first-time participant. It requires no club membership, specific venue, opponent or pre-requisite qualification. Running demands only what the individual participant cares to give & provides a great number of benefits, which include cardiovascular fitness, weight control, stress reduction, & for many persons, socialization (RRIC State of the Sport, 2008).
Mr. Xx Xxxxxx ("Running the Streets,” 10 Mar 2009) complains about “hundreds” of persons being inconvenienced by runners as if the entire local running population participates en masse in a fitness demonstration of sorts on a near-daily basis. The blockage of “entire roads for hours” Mr. Xxxxxx describes - more often than not - lasts closer to 90 minutes during a 5,000-meter road race, the most common race distance in Pensacola. And, to my recollection, the 5,000-meter road race - the most common road race distance, according to the Road Running Information Center's research - is mainly held on Saturday mornings in Pensacola, & contested between 15 and 20 times per year.
Mr. Xxxxxx provides a deal of sorts by promising not to drive on running tracks in his car if we will hide ourselves away on nice, safe, secure running tracks...far from the exhaust belching behemoths of the roadway. It's not a deal Mr. Xxxxxx can enforce for his side...and not one I think any of my fellow runners, whether here in Pensacola, or in the 980 clubs & events which make up the Road Runners Club of America would accept.
Not all of the tracks Mr. Xxxxxx wishes the local running community would relegate themselves to have been designed for running or run training. A good example of this "planning" exists at the main campus of Pensacola Junior College. The 440-yard track at PJC used to be populated by walkers & runners of all ages, shapes, races, socioeconomic statuses & fitness levels, until it was taken up this year & replaced with a 300-meter, irregular-shaped, single-lane width walking path. Other tracks are situated on school properties which may not be accessible during nights or weekends. Not every person who wishes to run has access to a track near where they live; that leaves no other choice than running on sidewalks, more often than not it means running on the shoulders or the edge of the road where sidewalks do not exist.
Mr. Xxxxxx may not realize runners are not just an ignorant (93-94% possess a college degree, according to a 2007 survey conducted by the RRCA), impoverished group (average income of $50,000-$75,000/year according to RRCA survey). We tend to make economic choices on the basis of which business/business owner is willing to support our running habit by sponsoring an event. We purchase & sell homes (of which Mr. Xxxxxx's business might no longer be required), & we also pay taxes to pave & maintain the very streets on which we also travel to tracks to train, to events in which we will race on the roads, & on which we sometimes have to train. We pay for the police to protect us during our races, as well as during our training runs, which may or may not occur on the sidewalks & shoulders of local roadways.
Until the taxes we pay for local infrastructure are used to develop good running paths throughout the entire city, & not just in one little corner, walkers, fitness enthusiasts & runners of all stripes will continue to be at the mercy of automobile operators exercising the same sort of common sense, of which Mr. Xxxxxx seems to possess in abundance.

Michael S. Bowen
N. Florida State Representative
Road Runners Club of America

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