In case you haven’t noticed, as the sport of running grows, so does its detractors. They display bumper stickers on their car that proudly proclaim 0.0 miles. They email memes and cartoons making fun of runners and accidentally–on-purpose include us in the distribution list. They post articles on Facebook berating the sport and are first to point out any studies that show running is “bad for you.”
They say things like, “You’ll make a good-looking corpse” or “I hope a truck driver runs over you while he’s eating a Big Mac.”
I’m frequently confused by human behavior, but I think I get this. They don’t simply dislike running or are good natured about teasing us. These aren’t the folks who call us “joggers.” I’m talking about real haters. And I think I have a handle on their reasons and justifications.
Runners have an inflated sense of self. I mean, really. We can run for long periods of time, but let’s not pretend that alone makes the world a better place. And the idea that self-discipline, delayed gratification or a tolerance for endurance training somehow elevates us to superior status in any way is embarrassing, for everyone. Runners who call races their “weekend adventures” don’t seem to notice that the collective eye-rolling response could shift the Earth’s gravitational pull. When you run a race, no matter its length or difficulty, you are not a hero. You are not worthy of anything other than a fleeting, “Good for you.” Maybe a pat on the back. There are people who risk their lives every single day. They run into burning buildings, fight bad guys in other countries, research cancer and combat hate and prejudice on a regular basis. We, my fellow runners, run around in a circle or through closed roads most of the time. Every few miles people cheer and hand us water. Let’s show some respect.
Taper madness. When we stop running and begin to feel antsy, it’s important to handle the downshift in activity with some grace. Training is finished and we settle back into a routine that resembles what mere mortals do all the time, so no one needs to hear about anxiety or weird sleep patterns. Treating others badly and blaming it on taper madness is as bad as acting awful and blaming menstruation. Neither excuse is okay.
Status updates. You know the face you make when your friend from an opposing political party posts a radical insult toward your favorite presidential candidate? That’s the same face everyone else makes when you post your workout stats. Who do you think actually cares about your PR announcements? I’ll help you out: no one. That workout schedule where you pencil in time to socialize and eat? No wonder you seem unbalanced and everyone feels sorry for your spouse. By all means, post pictures. Inspirational memes are sometimes inspirational and motivate the heck out of some folks. “If I can do it, anyone can”—definitely keep that up. But the “Look at me—I’ve just been told I have zero body fat” will get you kicked out of five different wills.
Insufferable behavior. We can tell you’re training for a marathon or perhaps a death-defying 100K race. Want to know how? Because you no longer have a sense of humor. You’re misinterpreting text messages, emails and the occasional “good morning” from coworkers. You have been reduced to discussing your injuries, bowel movements and dietary needs with that fake tree in the employee cafeteria because no one else will talk to you. You are blowing off lifelong friends because you’re “heavy into training.” Give us all a break. You have about 20 people around the country fiercely praying that race day brings a hurricane or, at the very least, a tropical storm.
These are the real reasons people hate runners, and you’d be doing everyone a solid if you get humble and develop an interest in something you don’t see looking back at you in the mirror.
Keep in mind a few things before get after me with hate mail. First of all I’m one of you, a proud runner who defends our lifestyle choices at dinner parties and the occasional chat room. I’ve also made a few of these mistakes and decided to share with you the things others only whisper behind your back. I’m telling you this because I’m totally on your side. Besides, tough love is the best endurance training of all.