On a related tangent, I had a strange experience at my last race - the 12 km. With about a mile to go, I was closing in on this man and had been using him for awhile as a motivator to keep me going. As I caught up to him and passed him, he immediately picked it up and started running with me. So at first I made my usual, horrible assumption that he didn't want to be passed by a woman but then I noticed he was running right next to me, practically matching me stride for stride. Then I wondered if he was trying to help me but it was a really windy day and if he really wanted to help, he should have run in front of me but he was stuck to my side. Anyway we had less than a km to go and I felt this weird pressure having him RIGHT there (definitely in my personal space) and also like he was raining on my parade as I had run most of this race alone. So I decided to try to drop him and started surging a good 800 m from the finish line and I am talking finishing kick speed... and he stayed RIGHT THERE, stride for stride, in my personal space. I couldn't maintain that speed for long so I dropped back and he dropped back with me and stayed RIGHT THERE. So, for the first time ever, I deliberately slowed down almost to a walk, I was just desperate to get rid of him (really not sure why) AND HE DID TO! Finally I rasped at him: "Dai, dai, lasci me... fai la tua gara!" which the part of my brain that speaks Italian thinks means "Go go, leave me alone, run your own race." He looked very surprised, a little hurt and off he went.
I am not sure why he elicited such a strong reaction from me (and I think I would have had the same reaction to a woman... it wasn't a gender thing, it was a person thing). It was just so intensely irritating. It reminded me of the imitating thing kids do to annoy each other, you know: "Stop COPYING me!" "Stop COPYING me!", "Mom, she's COPYING ME!", "Mom, she's COPYING ME", "You're a BIG DUMB STUPIDHEAD", "YOU'RE a BIG DUMB STUPIDHEAD." (Why did it take me 30 years to figure out the correct strategy is to say: [Insert best friend's name] is a big dumb stupidhead??) Anyhow after my little temper tantrum with 500 m to go, I finished about 3 seconds behind him. I found him at the ristoro (isn't that a great word for refreshment??) table and apologized. He also apologized and was a bit confused (by both my bad Italian and the situation) anyway it was all good - though I couldn't help but notice that he made a big deal about how he's not in good shape right now :).
All that to say, I am working on my mid-race presumptions and attitudes. File THAT under: goals, qualitative :)