Finish line behavior

By Dana Stetson


If you ever have an opportunity to watch the finish of any large race, you will get to see all kinds of what race anthropologists call mighty bizarre finish line behavior. One prime example of this is what I call the hard-core competitor. This person comes in fast with a singular purpose. They would sprint over baby chipmunks to beat anybody in sight.
I belong to this category and understand this mindset completely. Another type of finish line behavior is the photo finish group. These runners putt-putt along the entire race just to run fast in the final moments. Their race consists of a huge warm-up for an explosive finish.

A different category is the even-pacers. These persons pace themselves pretty well throughout the event. They cruise in completely under control, not really hurting, actually having a good time. It’s easy to see the attraction of this type of running.
The one category of finish line behavior that I find most interesting is that of the “man-thing” finish. This occurs when you have a fairly normal male runner, not the fastest and not the slowest, but somewhere buried way in the middle of all the action. He approaches the race finish after a long decent effort, he is tired, his shoulders are down and his form is no longer crisp.
He seems resigned to finish this race at this tired pace. Somewhere in the last quarter mile or so he sees a runner, a woman runner who is surely going to beat him. It is at this precise moment the miracle of the “man-thing” kicks in. This previously whipped puppy regains his form, loses at least five years off his age, and begins to accelerate in a superhuman effort to avenge his sex.

Win or lose he flops into the chute and reverts to his original condition, only sweatier and smellier. These miracle “man-thing” finishes occur with a specific, almost mathematical regularity. While conducting a semi-scientific survey this writer learned that of all the women runners interviewed, any that were passed this way had their own perception of those finishes. Almost all of the male runners interviewed, also had personal knowledge of this unique social phenomena. Interestingly enough, there does not appear to be a female version of the same behavior. One must wonder why that would be?