San Diego’s Mission Bay Park was awash in sun and wind today for the final of the 2012 USATF Dirt Dog Cross Country Championship, an 8K slog over the 2K loop famed for hosting the 2008 & 2011 USATF National Cross Country Championships.
As I headed to the men’s room beside the bay before my wife Toya’s race, I was stopped by an orange sandwich-board sign blocking the entrance. It read, “Sorry, Cleaning in progress”. Fortunately, as I pondered my fate, the maintenance man whose name-tag identified him as Mitch emerged in a matter of seconds.
“Getting ready for the morning rush,” I inquired, ever the willing interlocutor.
“Oh, you mean the marathon runners?” Mitch replied as he removed the sign and leaned it against the wall.
“Well, cross country runners, yes.”
“Oh, they’re mean.”
“Yeah. And the women are the worst. “
Now, Mitch had no idea I was with the meanies as I was dressed in my non-meanie civvies. But I had evidently sparked a topic of interest in him.
“If I’m in here cleaning, and they want to use the facilities, I’ve had women throw water at me from their bottles. I just avoid ‘em now. If there’s bunch of ‘em around, I wait till they leave.”
I felt a twinge of recognition and pain, and sensed a corresponding responsibility for my sport. Though Mitch wasn’t speaking specifically about any of today’s cross country crowd, Mitch’s impression of runners in general was, in a very minor key, in tune with what New Yorkers thought about the marathoners last week in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“Well, you see, they have everything back-timed from the start,” I explained. “So any disruption to the timing can compromise their race. And they’ve trained very hard and are very nervous, too. So maybe they’re a little on edge.”
Mitch just snapped out a white trash-can liner, inserted it in the nearby waste bin, then gathered his orange “cleaning in progress sign” from the entrance.
“I learned the hard way,” he concluded heading toward the playground nearby. “Let them take care of their race, so I can take care of my business.”
No scientific survey, just a a single unsolicited opinion of runners as fellow citizens: tunnel-visioned zealots so wrapped up in their enterprise that they lose perspective on the rest of the world outside their bubble. We see ourselves as well intentioned, even relentlessly positive in terms of health and in support of charity. But perhaps just a tad too self-involved?
Oh, well. Image cleaning still in progress, I guess.