“What’s a good 10K time?”

God, what a stupid question. But I asked it.

Idly whiling away the time on The Oracle recently, I submitted said query, and was pretty amused by the results. Let me say first that I understand “good” is entirely subjective. I don’t know what I expected to find, but it seems there are a lot of people with unrealistic expectations of how “good” should be defined. Some examples:

From Reddit: [Around] 32:00 is universally regarded as a decent 10K time. (underscoring mine)

Dude, WTF, are you kidding me? You and I obviously have rather different notions of what the word “universal” means. Note that this poster went on to say emphatically that he was not trolling. Uh huh.

From Runner’s World: My dad always said 42 minutes was what everyone at his running club considered a ‘serious’ time.That was 30 years ago though, and I suspect 42 minutes would now be thought of as rather slow by the serious runners at my club. 

Have runners’ times really gotten that much faster in 30 years? Maybe at the elite end, but I’m not so sure about the average club runner. I can tell you that at my club 42 minutes would be considered reasonably fast, at least for someone older than 35.

From the same Runner’s World thread: 40-45 minutes is a respectable time but to be classed as a good runner…you need to do a sub 40 for it, dont [sic] you….

Um, no, I’m pretty sure you don’t.

From community.myfitnesspal.com: For serious runners a sub 40min is considered a good 10k time. Obviously age, genetics,weight, dedication etc play their part. Decent club runners will be in the low 30’s.

Where the hell is this notion coming from that a sub-40 is “good”? I saw this a few times. There was one poster who considered a 40-42 minute 10K to be a good time for “hobbyists”. Christ almighty. Look, at my age, a sub-40 is about a 75% age grade, which is, in my estimation, better than “good”. Personally, I feel that age grading is the only real way to gauge how well one runs, but translating that into good vs. not good is utterly arbitrary. If I run at a 70% age grade and I can beat 95% of the other competitors in most races, shouldn’t that be considered “good”? I think so, but of course that’s my own interpretation.

I’m aware the counterargument to this is that running times are getting slower due to the people who enter races mostly to walk, or slowly jog, their way to the finish line. And of course, there was some additional claptrap about what constitutes a “serious runner” that I found in various threads. People were actually arguing about this. Really, who cares? We are a nation of sedentary, overweight, carbohydrate-addicted people, and we’re getting sick because of it. Why would anyone want to disdain someone as not serious when they, unlike many of our citizens, are actually making an effort to get out there? I’ve heard certain people lament the “state of the sport” because of this, as if some sort of purity needs to be maintained in running that is being sullied just because Joe Six-Pack wants to say he did a 10K. Come on. Stop being ridiculous.

I think it’s important for us, as a community of runners, to be as welcoming as possible. I have never maligned another runner based on appearance or ability, and I never would. I think, by and large, we are a group that understands and supports one another. So, for those with their noses in the air about how “serious” one is about the sport, let’s consider being as inclusive as we can, shall we? It’s my belief that we, and our sport, will be the better for it.

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