What does an elite runner mean?
The fabulous women listed on my shirt are elite – elite women, runners, members of our running culture.
Paula (Radcliffe): English long distance runner. Current women’s world record holder for the marathon with 2:15:25. Whoa.
Joan (Benoit Samuelson): American marathon runner who won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA – the very year that the women’s marathon was introduced. Yeah, badassery for life.
Desi (Desiree Linden): American long distance runner. She just made the US team in LA. I loved listening to her talk on TV at the Boston marathon this year.
Grete (Waitz): Norwegian marathon runner. In 1979, she became the first women in history to run the marathon in under two and a half hours. AND she’s won more New York City marathons than any other runner in history.
Kara (Goucher): American long distance runner. She has a long resume of wins and medals, but she also helped start Oiselle, and is one badass #motherrunner. She came in fourth at the Olympic trails, just missing the cut off.
Shalane (Flanagan): Shalane, I want to be your bestie! #dontmakeitweirdjennifer. She is an American long distance runner. She also has a bunch of wins to her name, and pretty epically placed third at the LA Olympic Trails. I am obsessively awaiting her book release, “Run Fast, Eat Slow.” I just feel like we would get along in real life hahaha.
Deena (Kastor): Deena is 43 and still CRUSHIN IT. She is an American long distance runner. She holds American records in basically every distance. She was one of the first people who was apart of the Mammoth Track Club, right alongside Meb. Their coach Bob Larsen, started the whole thing. Bob wanna train me? HAHA. I really want to watch the film about him “City Slickers Can’t Stay With Me: The Bob Larsen Story.”
So know that you know some of the “who” – here is the “why:”
When my family comes to support me at races (which is every race – my mom and dad are literally the best cheering crew ever) – they always want to stand where we will be able to see each other. My mom always says, “if you were running up front, then I would get to see you!” She is semi-joking of course. I mean yeah – she actually does want me to run up front. But of course she knows I’m not running sub 6 minute miles haha!
A text from my mom the morning of the Boston marathon. We were both watching on TV and texting each other 🙂
Even though we joke, she has asked, “what makes those people elite, other than they are just super fast?” And I realized I don’t really know. I’ve always just accepted that they have special tables for their water bottles and that’s it. Turns out there is more to it than that.
Many of the articles out there on the world wide web tell us that there are some things that set truly gifted runners apart:
- A high VO2 Max capacity
- Great efficient of movement
- The ability to run long distances at their anaerobic threshold
But still – why are they in the elite field?
Short answer, they apply for the race and are accepted based on previous times. Other races might have an invite process. Fees might be waived and hotel rooms might be provided to encourage a runner to come to the race.
The word elite, or professional runner, would lead you to believe these people are paid to run for a living. However many of them have some other kind of job. Whether that be working with a running-related company, or something separate from running entirely. If a runner is fast enough and marketable, companies might sponsor them. Think Nike, Saucony, New Balance, ect.
These are some common qualifying standards that I found on very race websites to run in the elite category:
- 10k sub 31:30
- Half Marathon – sub 1:11:00
- Marathon – sub 2:30:00
- 10k sub 38:00
- Half Marathon – sub 1:25:00
- Marathon – sub 3:00:00
On a whim, I asked Stephanie Bruce this question. She is a runner who I admire greatly. She just ran a 32:14:5 in the 10,000 meter – just under the Olympic Standard. She has also been very candid about her pregnancy and returning to running, as well as her experience with diatstisis recti—a separation of the abdominal muscles—during pregnancy, and has worked hard to regain core strength. She actually took time out of her life and busy training and mom schedule to reply to my email.
“A lot of races have different criteria for what “elite status” means to them. For example some local races with little or no prize $ might say a women who has run under 18 mins or 1:20 for a half marathon is elite status. On the other hand US Champ races and bigger time races would characterize sub 74 mins or 16:30 elite status. As for Ben and I we are professional runners as that is our job and we get paid a salary by our sponsors to train and race. We also make $ at road races and have bonuses within our contracts. “Elite” status isn’t necessarily the same as pro runner as you may get elite status at a race but it’s not your profession, as you have another job but happen to be at a higher level of racing than a lot of people. Hope this helps answer your questions.
So there you go!
Mom, I might not be there for a while, but I’ll keep trying! HAHA!
I’m sure there is more information out there on this, and I may have left some things out, but I hope it helped you a bit!
Also, you can get my shirt here (I got the unisex in small, because I like my t-shirts a bit roomy). Keep an eye out, as I have plans for a giveaway/coupon with the wonderful Sarah Marie Designs in the near future.
Thanks for reading!
Xo, J Bird