Thursday, January 19, 2012

Respect the Distance

Running is a funny thing. There is now clear cut definition or standard to what defines running. For some, it's short sprints at strong speeds around a track. For others, it's a slow shuffle along a quiet road. For some it's a weight loss tool, for others it's stress relief. It's even some people's job. There is no time limit or pace that defines running. My 10:30 pace is my 10:30 pace and it is not that really lean and speedy guy 's  6:10 pace. Our bodies are churning, our lungs are breathing, our muscles are working, our minds are free, it's running.
There are some people who work for months to be able to run a mile; and some that can just decide to run and go for miles without breaking a sweat. Some people run fast, some run slow. Some participate in races and events and some are content to have a few moments to themselves a day.

The running community as a whole supports this. I read once in Runner's World that if you care about being called a jogger, you're a runner. A runner will never dismiss or judge another's time and while we may get competitive in those final stretches, there is always an undercurrent of pride and encouragement. It's a pretty cool thing.

The disconnect comes when trying to describe or share running with nonrunners. Runners, or those that I have met, do not judge those who do not run. I run, cool. You don't, cool. I've had plenty of conversations with nonrunners and common responses are usually :

"Oh, that's awesome! I could never do that!"
"That's cool. I have a bad back/knees/heart/wrist/ailment."
"Why on earth would you do that?" (My personal favorite.)

"I can play tennis for hours, but I hate running." (This is my chiropracter's response)
"My brother/cousin/uncle/sister/girlfriend/coworker/friend/ is a runner too." (No, I don't know them, never participated in that race.)
"Oh, what's your 5K PR?" (Agh! Another runner! Yay! Until times are discussed and I'm revealed to be a turtle-like poser).

All of these responses are awesome and I love when people show interest and excitement. The responses that really bother me are the indifference or flat out disrespectful ones.

A coworker of mine came into my cage/office in the middle of the summer and declared she was running a half marathon. Cool, huh? She told me which was it was and laid out her awesome plan for getting ready and how the race had free beers at the end. The following week she told me how much her ankle hurt. The next week it was her knees. The following week it was too hot. Then she was too busy. Then it got dark too soon. This is while I was training for my marathon and fighting a daily battle with myself to overcome those same excuses. My advice was always just do it.

She never did take my training advice, only my advice on how to wear her hair and what to eat before hand. So, what are those Gu things? Do I need them? One piece of advice she never took was to stop smoking.
So, she did the half marathon. Notice I say "did" and not "ran." Her lack of training and respect for 13.1 miles caused her to stop at mile 7 and walk the remainder of the event. She didn't make the three-hour time limit. She talked like she was allllllllllthat and mooore for days because she totally finished and barely even trained. I had to bite my tongue on many occasions.

While I would never diss on a runner's time or experience, I am bothered by the lack of respect. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. That is a lot to ask of your body. And to simply THINK you can do it and not PREPARE demonstrates a certain amount of hubris and arrogance.

I've seen many a people claim "I'm gonna run a half marathon!" and then get a few weeks into training and back down, or stop talking about it completely, as the realization of what a long run can do to your body and schedule sinks in. I've seen lots of people stick with it and cross those finish lines full of pride. And humility.

You always respect the distance. From a 5K to an Ultra, respect the distance. Running requires work, dedication, and sacrifice and for a nonrunner to assume it's easy and can be done without trying is arrogant and annoying. I'm no slender skinny minny and have had eyebrows raised in disbelief when I said, "I'm doing the half marathon tomorrow," or "I ran 17 miles this morning." Yeah, you don't have to be a stick to run. You don't have to be fast to run. You just have to run to run. And to assume I cannot because I'm not skinny or fast is question my character. It's also a very transparent showing of their character.

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