Humans love sports. And for as long as humans have been loving sports — that is, since the beginning of humandom — humans have been betting on sports. Making a sports bet requires some kind of competition in which one wagers something on an outcome. The favored human competition is a race.
We love races. Any kind of race. A horse race. A greyhound race. A mule race. A sailboat race. An airplane race. Camel racing. Pigeon racing. Snail racing. Frog racing. Pig racing.
Man against man races: track and field. Boxing. Shin kicking. Race walking. Martial arts. Tiddlywinks. The current North American Tiddlywinks Singles Champion is Larry Kahn, winning all his games 6-1 save for one 4½-2½ victory, a victory made fabulous when Kahn carnovskied his first large wink. This makes the tenth straight championship for Larry.
Man versus animals races: the Man versus Horse Marathon, 22 miles, now in its 32nd year, is held in Llanwrtyd Wells, Republic of England, Welsh Seacoast Department. Horses have been the overwhelming favorite, but recently humankind shows signs of being competitive. In 2004, for the first time, a human beat out a horse, Kay Bee Jay. The human took home gold, finishing in 2:05:19, versus KBJ’s 2:07:36. And you can mark another win for humans in 2007. Sure, horses won the other 30 races, but the trendline is going our way.
Man versus machinery races: human versus train race. Now in its 22nd year, the Great Train Race is run every October from New Canaan, Connecticut, to Wilton, 6.8 miles down the track. Runners compete against an imaginary commuter taking the New Canaan branch line train to Stamford, changing to a train to Norwalk, and then changing to the Danbury line train to Wilton. The train makes it in 55 to 60 minutes.
STOP THE PRESSES! This just in from the New Canaan Daily Voice. Headline: New Canaan Runner Edged by Train at the Finish.
Yes, a bitter, bitter defeat for Bob Goldblatt, who told the Daily Voice, “I didn’t think I could beat the train, but then around five miles I thought I might have a chance. As I came across the bridge into Wilton I could see the train coming up the tracks, and I knew I’d really have to sprint to beat it.”
Next time, Bob.
Man and machinery versus man and machinery races: Snowmobile races. Lawn mower races. Tractor races. School bus racing. Tank racing.
Man versus stationary object races: stairclimbing regatta. Yearly. Empire State Building. Dash up 1576 steps. Current men’s champion, and champion for seven consecutive years, is a 27-year-old German, Thomas Dold. His 2012 time was 10 minutes, 28 seconds.
Dold wears his crown with style, telling the New York Times, “I never go to work, I just have hobbies that I can follow. If you have a thought, if you have a dream, you can make it a reality.” And Dold dreams big. He also holds the world record for running backwards and is defending tower-running champion.
Tower-running is a close kin to stairclimbing, but in this case it’s running up any man-made structure. So, besides skyscrapers, you can add structures like the CN Tower in Toronto, which is 361 feet higher than the Empire State Building.
You’re right, there has to be the Towerrunning World Cup. This year, the Towerrunning World Cup has been awarded to Bogotá and will be held on December 8. Champion stairclimber Dold has won the last three Towerrunning World Cups and is a favorite again this year. The man can’t be stopped.
Pathological races: running the Bruce Trail, 800 km (497 miles). The route goes from Queenston to the Bruce Peninsula in Lake Huron. The current record is held by Charlotte Vasarhelyi, who finished in 13 days, 10 hours, and 51 minutes.
Race Across America. Three thousand miles on a bicycle. There are no stages, clock goes off when you leave Oceanside Pier, clock stops when you get to City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland. Humans compete in several categories, but the race winner is considered to be the person who wins the solo category. Solo women start on June 12; solo men the following day. Be there.
The Vendée Globe race. Sail around the world by yourself. Nonstop, no outside assistance. The race is run every four years. Starts and finishes at Les Sables-d’Olonne on the Bay of Biscay. The reigning champ is Frenchman Michel Desjoyeaux, who finished in 84 days, 3 hours, 9 minutes, and 8 seconds.
Then, there are mildly crazy races: hotdog-eating time trials. Races that certify you have too much money: America’s Cup, Formula 1. Races that say you have too much time on your hands. Races that…