#tbt: Quit Kicking about Sitting and Kicking

Runners often decry the “sit-and-kick” race strategy. People have called it “boring”, “unethical“, “less effortful“, and even “pathetic“.

The thing is, sitting and kicking works. A front-runner will win when he (or she) is clearly the class of the field, but all else being equal, the sitter-and-kicker will beat a front-runner. It’s just easier to let someone else set the pace, and then use the energy you’ve saved to storm past at the end for the win.

I’m a firm believer in the Law of Natural Selection of Strategies, as promulgated by baseball writer Bill James: “If a [runner] tries something and wins, other [runners] will follow; if a [runner] tries something and loses, nobody else imitates it.” For as long humans have been racing, runners have been sitting and kicking – and winning.

Here’s an example from 1936:

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

If I were fast enough to make winning an option, I’d sit and kick too.

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