Who is welcome in the trail community – and better yet, who gets to decide?
This weekend Lance Armstrong entered into the Woodside Ramble Trail Race at the last minute – Then won the 22 mile race in about 3 hours. He has also previously won a trail marathon in 2012.
Both times the backlash was severe and people were livid that he was joining our community. He has either been welcomed with open arms or scorned and hated.
The previous weekend, Elsa Desco competed in the TNF 50 mile race in San Fransico. Many of her competitors were upset that she was allowed to enter after serving a two year doping ban.
The backlash here was also severe. This raises a serious question for the sport we love. Do we accept dopers and cheaters? When and where do we say no? How do we handle this and what is our role in it?
As of right now we have no sanctioning body in this country. Some races are USATF sanctioned and I am not sure that body is a good fit for this particular sport.
I think that a lack of a governing body is a good thing for the sport of trail running. Many of the elites might argue with me on this. Of course they do, trail running has become a job for them. A career. When you develop a governing body, you also develop rules. You develop money. You develop corporate sponsorship. You develop incentive to cheat because with your rules, money, and sponsorship comes people who want the prestige and the cash.
Tell me that USATF and IAAF haven’t created many of the problems they now pretend to want to fix. Money has become the driving factor and Track and Field and Road Marathons in particular have lost their way.
For people like me, trail running is a lifestyle. One that I am willing to accept anyone in to. I have gone as far as to personally invite Lance to events I direct. I would get a kick out of seeing him on a fat bike, or sharing a beer with the SAS runners after 0SPF.
Perhaps the way to handle this is simple. Runners who have been convicted of doping bans should not be eligible for prizes or listed in final results. I would be the first one to agree that doping is wrong. It should have serious ramifications.
I would also be the first one to say that our community should be about acceptance and redemption. The number of us who are former addicts and criminals. Those who have served prison sentences. Those who have cheated on taxes or cheated on spouses, they have all been welcomed in. We have said to all of them; “Meet us where the pavement ends. Find solace, recovery and acceptance in the woods with us. We have told them “we will not judge you”.
Many of you may disagree with me but I ask you to reconsider what our sport is truly about.
It’s not about racing. It surely is not about money and corporations. The legends of this sport will be the first to tell you that.
Racing is a part of the sport for sure. To me though, it’s about that Thursday night in the summer, cooling off with a cold beer after climbing 6 miles of hills. It’s about huddling around the campfire on a Tuesday in February, passing around the almost frozen cookies after fighting the now and ice for a measly 3 miles in 45 minutes. It’s about going for a run with the ones you love after finding out the worst of news and being able to leave some of it with them on the trails.
Our sport is about relationships.
It’s about people.
I have seen relationships blossom on the trails. I have seen broken people come back to life on the trails. I have seen proud people humbled, and humbled people find pride. That is what our sport is about. Not lifetime bans from participating. Not being exclusive. Not thinking someone else had made a mistake larger than the ones we have made. Our sport is about people – nature – and finding each other while getting lost together.
We all deserve somewhere to belong.
My 2 cents?
I believe the sport of trail running should be open to us all, past drug use or not. Hope to see you at the start line of 0-SPF, Lance. My money is on our local crew to take it to you out there anyway.