Yesterday, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook that resonated with me. So much, in fact, that I immediately realized that our own community could use some similar reminders.
Kristen and I met more than ten years ago. She was training for her first marathon and I had just moved to Columbus. We had some fun times running and going out with friends until she moved away (boo), but through the wonder that is Facebook, we’ve been able to keep in touch. Since the days that Kristen was ecstatic to break 4:00 in the marathon and I was still hunting down a sub-3:20, she’s become a CrossFit enthusiast and I’ve become an ultrarunner. She still runs here and there, and I still hit the pavement in spite of my love of trails.
Well, the article she posted was clearly titled “Don’t Be a CrossFit A$#hole: Tips to be a Good CrossFitter.” The original article can be found here, and I link to it to give the authors full credit not only for the article, but for the inspiration.
CrossFit has a bad rap in some circles. Why? Well, read the article. But are we, as runners, really much better?
I would be comfortable guessing that, as a community, we’re guilty of some pretty similar sins. I am not judging individuals, and I would also be comfortable guessing that most women on a women’s running site are more interested in building community. But all that said, a couple of good reminders for all of us. And if you do live in a glass house, all the better – post this on your wall simply hoping that it helps another runner.
Their brand spanking new time or distance PR is not your warm-up or “easy” day. Remember those early days of your own running, and how exciting it was when the progress came so quickly? You likely wanted to shout from the rooftops: “I RAN 4 WHOLE MILES TODAY WITHOUT WALKING!!!” Or, “I FINALLY HELD SUB-10 MINUTE PACE FOR MY ENTIRE LONG RUN!” When a new runner is excited, be excited with and for them – without the need to glorify yourself or your own running. One day, you might be screaming from the rooftops that you really wish you could beat them.
Stop judging their training. George Sheehan, the grandfather of distance running, was fond of saying that we are all an “experiment of one,” but my how we judge. The advent of Facebook has perhaps fueled this fire; training programs, workouts, long runs and race results are posted quickly and in the palm of our hands. It’s easier than ever to compare what we are – or aren’t – doing to someone else, and from there, to judge.
STOP. Unless you’re their coach or they’ve specifically asked for your input, carry on without analyzing. Think someone’s doing “too much?” Good for you. A simple “Wow, that’s intense!” or “You must be so proud of that mileage” will suffice. Think someone’s doing “too little?” All you need to say is “Hang in there, I know you’ll do your best whatever the circumstances.” An uninvited critique of someone’s training is not only unwelcome, but often uninformed.
Respect all athletes. Some people cycle because of injuries that prevent them from running. Some people are on the elliptical simply because they enjoy it more. Some people (I swear!) are drawn to the water for this thing called “swimming” – which, incidentally, kicks this ultrarunner’s a$$. Some are most motivated by the loud music in a spinning room, even though YOU would never deign to disrupt nature’s soundtrack with another round of “Blurred Lines.” Pilates, yoga, CrossFit – there’s room for all of us. But being RUNNERS (!) does not make us special. We are not more highly evolved than other humans. Believe it or not, some of those other humans think that 100-mile races are just day-long hikes wherein we periodically stop for picnics. Oh, and did you hear? Your lungs freeze if you run in the winter, and it’s really bad for a woman’s reproductive system.
Remember that some people just don’t care. You are a RUNNER (!) and that is awesome. But not all of your friends and family are. Have other topics of conversation. Feel like you’ve been pigeon-holed as “the runner” at a social event? Briskly change the topic after providing a few bits of information: “Yes, I have run several marathons and I’m hoping to qualify for Boston next year. But right now, I’m really focused on… trying to knit a winter hat for the first time, writing lesson plans for the new Sunday School year, planning our upcoming trip to Europe.” Let your non-running friends know that you’re not “that” person, because after all, do you really want to talk about their fascination with Etruscan coinage every single time you have cocktails?
Running may define you – I feel to this day that it defines me. It has made me physically stronger and emotionally warmer; it has smoothed some rough edges and forced me to confront the very best and worst of my own character. But not once have those things been threatened by a new runner announcing a PR that I achieved a few years back. Not once have those things been threatened by another runner’s over- or under-training. Not once have those things been threatened by another form of fitness, and not once have those things been threatened by an old or dear friend respecting it, but not “getting it.”
Running has made me physically stronger and emotionally warmer; it has smoothed some rough edges and forced me to confront the very best and worst of my own character. But these things have happened on the days that I am alone; alone with myself, my God, my trail and my thoughts. And my very own running, just the way it is.
I would wish nothing less for others. After all, isn’t there room for all of us to be “special?”