As an ultrarunner who has had some mid-pack success—I once finished 3rd in a small 30 person 50K—I am always interested in the facial expressions of the front runners. That is, if the race venue is such that there is some sort of out-n-back that enables the runners further back to see the leaders. For example, the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race had a couple of spurs that permitted those of us further back to see the leaders coming back the other way.
And usually it seems that the leaders are not enjoying themselves as much as the middle or back of the packers are. They just seem not to having as much fun as I am further back. Now, of course I realize that the top dogs probably have much different goals than I do (i.e., winning rather than merely finishing!), and I am NOT being judgmental. It’s just that I am glad, at age 58, that I’m not a contender and can figuratively sit back and enjoy the companionship of the race and not feel compelled to push if I don’t want to.
To stretch an analogy, as Billy Joel once sang, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints…the sinners are much more fun….
(tried to embed the YouTube, but failed, so go here instead)