I’m definitely doing it: rabbiting a World Record attempt for Defar in four days.

The basic idea of a rabbit, for the rookies out there, is to have someone take the lead in a race at a designated pace for a set distance.  In this 5k, for example, I’m most likely going to be asked to run 68.0’s for the first 5 laps, and then drop out without tripping the field (which is harder than it sounds).  I’m still waiting for the details.

Race directors sometimes feel it will help them sell tickets if they can say someone is making a “World Record Attempt.”  Since so few athletes can run those paces, these potential record breakers are choosy about which meet they will do it at.  They have great bargaining power as a result, and can say to a race director, “Sure I’ll try for a world record at your meet, but you will pay me $____ appearance fee and you will provide two rabbits for me, one for the first mile and the other for the first 3k.  I get $_____ if I set the record as well.”

Rabbiting is a subject worthy of great debate in our sport, and I’m philosophically conflicted about it.  It has its moments of use, and you can’t really break a record without one anymore.  But mostly I’m a fan of rabbiting for selfish reasons:

1.  Its a chance to be a part of a World Record (which is an incredible opportunity).

2.  Its a pay day baby, and I could use some flow.

3.  It sets me up nicely for my next race.

I’m rarely one to put physical limitations on myself but I can comfortably say I won’t be breaking the world record myself; its of no threat to me to help someone else do it.  But you won’t see me rabbit often.  The circumstances have to be right.  For example, I’d never rabbit an American to an American record in the 5k because it is something I aspire to myself.

I’d really like to hear some opinions on rabbiting here, so feel free to share a comment.  Its a debate with lots of valid points.

My current opinion on rabbiting as a whole?  Too many races have pace-setters, and its hurting the sport.  If week after week the focus is on breaking records, we highlight the huge disparities in the fields, string everyone out from lap 3 onward, and eliminate any chance of the unexpected happening.  That’s why Championships are so much more fun to watch…no rabbits.

Knowing that I’m a championship-type racer, you could have guessed my opinion on the subject.  Had there been a rabbit at the USA’s at 15:00 5k pace, I wouldn’t have won.  But isn’t that the point of a race?  To have everyone step on the line with their own bag of tricks and use them the best they can?

Every race strategy has its disadvantage.  People with no kick need to lead early, but then they have to cut the wind.  That’s just part of the deal.  Sorry.  And people with good kicks and less endurance can get left behind if someone pushes the pace early.  That’s part of the deal.  Bummer.  Every race is different and you have to make choices every lap that give you the best chance to win.  If you don’t run your best race, you don’t win.

That leads me to my other problem with allowing rabbits.  They provide an advantage to one particular type of runner, and a disadvantage to all the others.  Rhythm runners with great VO2s thrive with rabbits.  Imagine if races started putting in “stunters,” rabbits who slow the pace down to ensure a sit and kick race?  This would make the races very exciting by ensuring close races, but it would provide a huge advantage to one particular type of runner. Any kind of rabbit provides an advantage for certain competitors, which when you think about it, should probably be illegal.

Another good argument against rabbits is that it has been deemed illegal for a male to rabbit a women’s race.  And I’m sure its also illegal for a robot to rabbit a men’s race.  So if there is already ethical debate as to how much assistance is too much, to me this raises a red flag for the entire practice.

In Barcelona last week for the European Championships, there were some huge upsets in the middle and long distance races.  The Spanish monopolized the 1500’s by slowing the pace down early and kicking hard.  Someone else could have taken the lead and pushed it, but they didn’t.  Every race was an absolute nail-biter, and the crowds were swimming in endorphins after each finish.  I’m sure the fans felt they got their money’s worth.

World records are getting so fast now and some are so ethically questionable that we are doing the sport a huge disservice by putting too much focus on records.  So what is a good solution?  What do you think we should do?  What do the fans want?