That’s probably why I run, instead of, say, play Soccer. I don’t have a competitive bone (or nerve) in my body, so having a team rely on me to play my best is kind of hilarious. (Just ask the Playboy softball team and all the losses we had because I never learned how to play catcher.) Plus, I don’t want to workout with people, on a schedule, or really near anyone. I don’t want to worry about what everyone else is doing. The thoughts in my head are way more than enough to keep me company.
With that said, I don’t know why I have all these running “teams”–Team Challenge, Team #runDisney, Pugalicious. (I am involved with other running groups as well, but those are the three I focus on). I am the worst Team Challenge teammate ever. I don’t go to practice. I hang out with my mom instead of taking team photos. I don’t share. I do support all my teammates and their fundraisers. I laugh at their jokes and cry at their defeats. I refuse to be a mentor. I try make everyone else look fast by being so slow. I’m a better friend than a teammate.
Pugalicious, well let’s just say you too can join Team Pugalicious, and in fact, we have shirts in the making!
Team #runDisney is a different story. It’s mostly social. But every now and then a “runner” sneaks in. Someone who is more about the running than the Disney and constantly reminds everyone of that, although probably not consciously. Running is their life. They can’t help it. I encounter these people everywhere in Seattle as well. It’s why I’ve never gone to any running clubs around my neighborhood more than once.
Some “runners” were made that way. They have zero body fat and can run a 6 minute mile (or faster) without even trying. Secretly (or not so secretly) they think us slow runners are joggers. And that comes across in their slightly judgmental tone they use when they give advice. They train constantly, both mentally and physically. They are a finely tuned running machine. It’s sometimes hard to talk to them because they truly don’t understand what its like to want to run fast, to do everything right with training, but just not run fast.
Some “runners” have made themselves that way. Perhaps they were heavy once, or still are, and running is their path to ideal body weight, so it has consumed their life. Perhaps they are type-A and just go gung ho on everything they do. Do it the best or don’t do it at all! Perhaps they have some other random thing going on that causes them to latch on to running and forget that the people around them are just people and not the finely tuned running machine that they happen to be. Whatever caused it, running is their life and their only life. They might be the fastest runners, but they are still just as opinionated as those that were made that way.
Some call them purists. I just call them “runners” and that’s with the air quotes. I am I in awe of their dedication and will always love listening to their triumphs, but I could never be them.
These are the runners that say things like “you won’t be out there long enough to need fuel if you’re only running 8-12 miles” or “take off your fuel belt, it’s only a 5k” or “anything slower than 9 minute pace is jogging anyway” or “walking disrespects the race” or “only self-professed couch potatoes use run-walk” or “anyone can run 13/26 miles without walking if they just applied themselves better” or “real runners don’t sparkle” or “all these 5 and 10ks are just girly races”. I could go on, but I think you get the point. There are also comments like “even when I was fat I could run a 9 minute mile” or “my first run after surgery was slow, a 8 minute pace” that aren’t quite as laced with judgment but come from a totally different perspective, usually from someone who isn’t quite a “runner” but is perhaps close, only because he or she forgets that not everyone has that beast mode!
I’m not talking about people who offer honest advice with an understanding that everyone is not made the same. And I’m not talking about the snark, I’m talking about the people who really believe wearing a hydration belt in a 5k is akin to purposely tripping runners at a water station. I am talking about the people whose entire identity is “runner”. They don’t just eat, breathe, and sleep running, they are running. If you stripped them of their label, they’d be lost.
I’m not a couch potato. I don’t play sports. I don’t compete. I like video games and movies. I read profusely. I work on a computer. But I am not a couch potato. I travel the world, experience life to the fullest on adventures and in relaxation, and enjoy whatever comes my way. Some months I run 200 miles and some months I run 2. I am anything but lazy although I am a procrastinator and always look for the easy way to do something if it saves time and energy (and I call that lazy sometimes). I sometimes carry a fuel belt in a 5k. I run/walk. I’m learning to racewalk. I’m slow. I don’t need to be first as long as I finish. In some circumstances, I don’t always need to finish as long as I start.
And it’s not about speed. I know plenty of people who run fast who can have a perfectly normal conversation and even have a life outside running. I know more than one person who has competed at the Olympic Trials who are not “runners”. They even go out drinking with friends before races and sleep late sometimes. They applaud my slow running even when I’m feeling bad about myself. They offer me the same respect they offer all runners. I also know a couple “runners” who competed at the trials. It takes all kinds to make a team.
So hey, I respect all the “runners”, runners, run/walkers, walkers, and people out there. I like to dream about being as fast as them one day. I like to hear their stories and their advice. I do get so tired of all the judgments (usually disguised as advice) and the total lack of respect from some people. It rolls off me, but I see it affect other people. The nervous first-timer who starts to question her training. The shy guy who can’t run faster than a 11 minute pace who starts to lose confidence.
I respect walkers a whole hell of a lot. Racewalkers, I know are awesome. But there are people who just walk an entire half or full marathon within a 15 or 16 minute pace requirement. Many finish before me. Before I was given clearance to run again after my surgery, I walked and I never once made it to a 15 or 16 minute pace over any real distance. It’s hard to maintain. It makes me laugh when people give me advice on my first big races after surgery by saying, you could stroll and still maintain a 16 minute pace. You can’t really. I walk fast normally, where people walking with me complain, but turns out it’s not that fast at all.
What it comes down to is: I believe if it doesn’t hurt me personally, so be it. If someone wants to carry a fuel belt or wear a camel pak during a 5k, let them do it and don’t try make them feel bad for doing so. You don’t know what’s going on with those people and what’s happening in their life. That guy could have cancer and wants to make sure he won’t get sick during the race. That girl could be running her first ultra next week and wanted to do one last race test on her gear. Or maybe that person is used to 5k without water stations (just did my first 5k with a water station and was astonished, but apparently that is the norm!) and wanted to carry something to drink. Or maybe they’re going to go run 20 miles after the 5k. Who cares really? Let them be. At least that’s how I think; I know not everyone does.
I assume in all races, I will dodge walkers and almost trip over someone who just can’t run anymore. I will step on cups people couldn’t get into the trash can and I will see all kinds of ridiculousness. And I will worry about my own pace, my own aching body, and my own race. I will pull my friends and teammates who are struggling across the finish line (or in some cases buoy them for a while and then shoot them forward to finish well ahead of me). And I will smile and have fun, and I will do this no matter what anyone else is doing over there in their little race world. I feel bad for people who have a negative race experience (read the comments) because someone else did something they didn’t approve of like run/walk the whole thing. After all, this isn’t really a team sport, it is all about the “I”.
Carry your hydration belts, wear your camel pak, dance at every mile marker, sparkle while walking. The next time you hear someone say you aren’t a real runner for whatever reason, just know it’s because they are a “runner”, and that’s okay too. And the next time you worry whatever you do during training is wrong simply because it’s a race, just know it’s not. It’s not wrong unless it has the potential to hurt yourself or other people. At some point, you won’t have to ask questions anymore because it’s not your first race or your first race with a course limit, and when that times comes, remember what it felt like the week before your first race and how nervous you were. Instead of judging that person, share your advice and encourage them to have confidence in themselves and their training. Be inspirational.
I have been lucky to find an amazing group of people to call friends and teammates and the “runners” who happen into our world find us just as welcoming.
Let your runner flag fly. And while you’re at it, let you’re freak flag fly too! Be you.
I know everyone else is writing about what to pack for a destination race, compiling all the info in one helpful post, offering runDisney tips, and preparing for Dumbo, but y’all do that perfectly fine. I don’t need to rehash your awesome advice or say me too! I was just up late last night thinking about how much I love everyone even if they carry water during a 5k. I get sappy at 3 a.m.
And it wouldn’t be a post during Team Challenge season, if I didn’t ask you to donate: active.com/donate/vegasNWS13/kristie