“You run bloody marathons?” My British snowboard instructor exclaimed as he helped me strap my boots to my rental board. I don’t normally drop my running resume in casual conversation, but when I was on the slopes ready to try snowboarding for the first time, I found myself declaring to a complete stranger that I’m a marathoner. And it wasn’t to make small talk.
Yet, there I was sports-accomplishment dropping on a Pyrenees mountain top, scared to look like an idiot on a snowboard. It wasn’t because I think running is more hardcore than snowboarding. God knows I am in complete awe as I see experienced and skilled snowboarders swooshing every which way down the slopes and I respect the hell out of that.
But I run, dammit! I don’t have to be good at anything else.
Would I have blurted about my marathons if my instructor wasn’t a super tall man with an adorable British accent? Ehhh, that’s questionable. I was in the small country of Andorra in a beginner’s class for English speaking snowboarders. Firstly, I hate being a beginner in anything because I am an impatient drama queen and starting anything from scratch seems like the end of the world. I also felt that, for whatever reason, admitting that I was a beginner made me of lower status than everyone else at the resort, who all fell into the gorgeous, athletic Spanish, French, German, or English skier or snowboarder category.
So, I began my class with two Irish couples. Jason, our British instructor, gave me more individual attention than I deserved. (I’ll let that simmer in my imagination.) Maybe because I was the fifth wheel? Maybe because of my adorable runner’s physique and American accent? Or, maybe because I was actually really awful and realistically I needed the help?
Whatever the reason, as he helped me secure my board, my ego got the best of me and this beauty of a humble brag slipped out of my mouth, “I am just a lowly marathoner.” He enabled me with his amazed reaction, “You run bloody marathons?!” (And enabled my crush by using the word “bloody”.)
That’s just the thing. Running impresses people and whenever I mention it to someone, their reaction is very dramatically in my favor. And I’ve let that get to my head. Running is my excuse for literally everything. Zip-lining? I’ve never tried it, but I run marathons so of course I can hang onto some handles and zip down a … line. Snowboarding? Standing on a board and sliding down a slope versus pounding pavement for four hours? Gimme a break. Spinning? Are you freakin’ serious?
But that’s not the full story. I have lost count of the times I’ve been humbled in other activities because of my dependency on my athleticism as a runner. All of those things I’ve mentioned above totally whipped my ass. Zip-lining requires a lot of upper body strength that I do not have. Snowboarding requires a lot of practice, coordination, and super-focus, which you cannot conjure in a couple of hours. Cycling requires a cardiac threshold of basically infinity if you want to finish with a single dry spot on your technical clothing.
My runner’s ego is a strength because I can walk into any situation with confidence.
My runner’s ego is a weakness because I can walk into any situation with confidence.
Sometimes I let my finish line victories override the fact that I am not the athletic superwoman I like to think I am. I’m kinda a one-trick pony.
Back to the Pyrenees, after Jason gave me the reaction I was looking for, I naturally acted all aw-shucks-golly-gee about it. “All you have to do to run is put one foot in front of the other,” I said. “Snowboarding involves so much skill and gear.” And British hotness, I thought to myself.
In my crash course, no pun intended, Jason held my hand through the first circuit. I loosened up, relaxed and glided, still not so gracefully, down the slopes. After spending a couple hours together, I started to feel better about outing myself as a runner. We discussed injuries and how he had recovered from a broken leg recently and I had recovered from a broken heel. I told him how I did core work to feel productive while I recovered. He told me he laid on a sofa and watched TV for five weeks, and I told him I actually did that core work during commercial breaks. We had athleticism in common and he would have never known that without my marathon detail.
As a guy who instructs thousands of international boarders every year, I’m sure I’m not the first American distance runner who had to proclaim her athletic superiority as a marathoner because she couldn’t swing it on the slopes. But, by opening myself up to trying something new and confronting the truth about my little blurt, I realized I would love nothing more than to become well-versed in another sport. And maybe with Jason’s help, I can be slick on the slopes and a streak in the streets. But until then, I’m just a lowly marathon runner.
Have you ever used your running prowess to excuse sucking at something else?