24 May 2012

The Art of the Race Report


Over the years I've blogged about several things, a lot about running, but also a lot about other topics in daily life (some a bit too personal and thus pinched from public view after a scant few hours).  Seriously, though, how many times can one write about the eight mile run he does routinely without lulling even himself into a deep sleep?

This is where the humble race report shuffles out onto the stage from behind the black velvet curtain and shyly acknowledges the audience of blog readers who've grown accustom to following varying levels of blog reading etiquette and mores.  They question ideas when appropriate, plump up the original context with their own comments, and often rally to the defense of notions and even other people whom they will likely never meet in real life.  The diversity and anonymity of the blog reader is not always for the thin skinned.  But the race report seems to bring readers together in a like-minded circle of campfire warmth to share in the recount of self imposed race struggles.

Our friend, the race report, serves as reporter, lamenter, cheerleader, and historical reference.  Races are unique, even the same event from year to year is unique.  Players change, crowds grow, the venue morphs.  And yet they are similar.

Other than the bib number, medal, or belt buckle (if you're nutty enough to finish a 100 miler), the only thing that stands as a tangible reminder of the event is the race report, so respect and effort must be given to produce the best place holder possible of your great achievement, or, unfortunately sometimes, your suffering defeat.

So, what exactly makes a great race report, well, great?

For me, the prospect of death or at least scary close encounters with death seem to evoke the most memorable and lucid writing from me.  There isn't a lot of intrigue in the local trail half marathon just a mile from a large city, aid stations every 3 miles, and spectators at several trail intersections.  However, consider a tough, remote mountainous 100 miler and now you've got a good shot at finding a way to kill yourself, or at least suffer tremendously, and terrific fodder for your race report.  Other situations that virtually guarantee a good report are a competitive race to the finish, wardrobe malfunction, wildlife encounters, and crapping your pants.  I'm not saying you can't create a great race report on a shorter local event, you can.  It just takes more work to squeeze the interesting parts (i.e. fabricate) from the experience.

There are varying approaches to the race report.  Gary Robbins is adept at the humorous report, typically in a humbling, self-deprecating way.  Geoff Roes lays it out in a realistic, journalist manner, leaving you knowledgable about the mundane facts of the race as he experienced it.  Some reports are so overly detailed (dragged out) that you wonder how the person ever made to the start line after exhausting himself in the pre-race preparations, while others seem to be written by a half-witted sloth - "I tied my shoes and ran.  The end."

The astute reader will eventually see patterns to all race reports.  There are ingredients that have become  fundamental.  Some of these include sandbagging, excuses (Major = I got hit by a bus walking to packet pick up.  Minor = my iPod broke half way through "It's Raining Men"), pre-race bowel movement details, running out of water, feet hurting, trouble with pre-race sleep, etc.

In part 1 of this post, I'll layout my guide to writing a good an amazing race report.
Part 1 - The Build Up


4 comments:

  1. I look forward to reading it, Tim. I am going to need some pointers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. But wouldn't you cry if you missed the second half of "It's Raining Men"...??? Just please skip any near death ones this year please, last year was enough to get by for a few decades without another ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yo speedster, we were the last of the ice-age critters to go extinct -- give us some credit, sheesh.

    The sloths

    ReplyDelete
  4. Don't be surprised if laxatives end up in your pre-race meal and you get hunted down by a pair of hungry pumas that were, oh, "accidentally" released a few minutes after you passed the aid station. And perhaps the course markings will have been temporarily removed for added fun.

    I feel like it's our responsibility, as readers, to ensure you have ample material!

    ReplyDelete