We dedicated runners have probably all heard it before:
Often, though, the comments don’t stop at crazy:
Can’t you just skip a day? You don’t need to run; you’re not fat. Didn’t you already work out today? You’re ob-SESSED!
In response, I often find myself struggling to justify my behavior. “I am on a marathon plan and my schedule says to run X miles today,” or, “I like to eat.” Or I might reply, “Yes, but I did weights. Now I am going for a run.”
I’m talking about run-shaming, which is not the same as expressing concern for those who genuinely suffer from an eating disorder or an unhealthy exercise addiction that interferes with their life. I am talking about shaming people for choosing to be healthy, dedicated runners. Despite how others apparently think it’s just fine, it’s not.
I must admit, before I was a “crazy” runner, I would see a person running in the pouring rain and think to myself, “What an idiot!” Now I’m the “idiot.” Life is funny that way. It taught me to be more understanding and compassionate. You never know when you will be the idiot that you once judged.
I also jokingly say I’m obsessed with running. But it bothers me when people describe someone as “ob-SESSED” with running merely for being dedicated.
1. “To preoccupy the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent;” and
2. “To be preoccupied and constantly worrying about something.”
While we dedicated runners might think about running a lot because we love it, it’s not obsession in that true negative sense of the word.
How to Stop Run-Shaming?
As the victims of run-shaming, here are some things we can do to combat the problem.
Be supportive of others who have different hobbies than you.
If someone is a die hard stamp collector, crotchet enthusiast, or old movie aficionado, good for them! Do not bash their hobbies or unfriend them on Facebook because their interests have nothing to do with yours. Everyone has their own passions in life. If those passions make them happy and aren’t hurting anyone or breaking the law, then that is a good thing! Now more than ever, this world needs acceptance, support and love. Let’s lead by example.
Remember to have empathy.
Each person has his or her own story and reasons for why they do the things they do. A person may have battled and overcome a disease and running makes that person feel strong. Someone else may have a hard time socially and book club or crochet class gives them a chance to interact with others. You never know the background reasons for a person’s choices, interests, or what brings them joy.
Be proud of who you are.
I have encountered situations where I have felt that coworkers judged me or questioned my dedication to the job based on the time I spent running, even though I was always prepared and on time for work. Others said I am antisocial because I rarely went to bars with my coworkers. Unfortunately, some of the people who went out to bars every night would in turn frown upon my regular running habit, mistakenly thinking that I did not have enough work dedication. I can guarantee, I spent much less time running than the aforementioned people spent in bars! At the time, I felt like I had to hide the fact that I was a runner so that people would value me at work. Now I am proud of who I am: I am a musician-runner and occasional drinker!
Respond with dignity, not hostility.
On the flip side, as a classical musician for a living, I am used to unwelcome, downright rude questions such as, “Do you get paid for that?” As with these types of questions, I aim to respond with dignity, not hostility. You do not need to justify yourself to everyone. With running, I generally say something simple, like “This is who I am. Running is like eating, sleeping, or brushing my teeth. Why do I run? I just have to.”
For those of you reading this who don’t get the whole running thing, how can you be supportive, rather than shaming? Be happy for us. Say “That is not my chosen hobby but good for you on being disciplined and doing something you enjoy to stay in shape.” The same goes for any hobby or lifestyle. Do not criticize and degrade people for enjoying things that you do not do or understand.
Although many of us are presently runners, we may not always be. Illness, injury or life circumstances may derail our running and we may become non-runners. Many of us will take up other hobbies. Hopefully our running backgrounds will make us better people and more supportive of others, runners and non-runners alike.
I like to remember the old saying; Obsessed is the term the lazy use to describe the dedicated. So, really, if being a dedicated runner makes me crazy and obsessed, so be it!
Have you ever been run-shamed? How did you respond?