Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Still Not Getting It

I was excited when I saw an article about running in last week's Sports Illustrated.  Mud, Sweat and Beers by Austin Murphy started with promise but quickly fizzled.  It is further proof that this author and many others just don't get it. 

The article indicates that there is a big running boom going on right now.  The gimmicky races like the Mud Runs and Color Runs have encouraged a lot of people who never thought about running to come out and party.  Not to mention runs that benefit specific charities.  I don't disagree with any of this.  A lot of my friends and co-workers were lured to running by these races that promise a unique experience.  Personally, these races don't appeal to me because of all the hoopla.  But anything that gets people off their asses is a good thing. 

Throughout the article the author differentiates between serious runners or competitors and the rest of the pack.  He considers serious runners to be people who are fast and thin.  Anyone who isn't in competition for a medal isn't a serious runner.  The author also makes several references to the rest of the pack being overweight, out of shape, just there for a t-shirt, not serious. 

Murphy implies that the standards of the running community have been lowered to encourage non-serious runners to compete; road races generate a lot of money and more people equals more money.  Yes, there are more people running now than before but there have always been people of all shapes, sizes and paces participating in road races.  The change is in the attitude of the running community at large.  

In the past when I went to be fitted for running shoes, the running shoe specialist immediately assumed I was a walker.  When I went out to participate in training runs with the local running club they had pace groups up to 8 or 9 minute miles and the rest of us had to fend for ourselves.  My self esteem was already low and this sort of snobbery only made me feel worse about myself.  

During the past couple of years, running community has become more inclusive.  When I go to a training run no one is left behind.  I don't know why this has changed.  Maybe reality shows like Made, Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser have pumped us up to root for the underdog and to not judge people based on their appearance if they are trying to be better.  

I have been a serious runner for 25 years.  I run 2-4 days a week and compete in several road races every year.  I have never been fast or thin but I don't waddle or have my gut hanging over my shorts as Murphy would have you believe.  A lot of thin people finish after me and lot of heavy people finish before me.  The average race awards the top three people in each age group.  That's maybe 60 people at a large race.  So outside of those 60 people no one else is a serious runner?   Maybe 5% of the field is in competition for a medal.  The other 95% is comprised of people going for personal records, running for the love of it, running for their health, and yes, maybe for a t-shirt and a stale bagel afterward.  

It is always disappointing when a large publication like Sports Illustrated takes a fringe athletic event and completely misses the opportunity to properly represent it.  This article will validate what running snobs think and make average runners feel invisible and judged.  Way to go SI. 

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