I’ve always said that I like and understand other runners because they tend to be “quirky” in ways that I am too. It’s hard to explain to a non-runner why you run almost every day. Waking up before dawn or heading out in the dark after the kids have gone to bed. Never missing a run due to cold, heat, rain, ice. And that’s because it really does defy reason. We do it because we love … something about it (not necessarily every minute of it). There is no purpose to it. It truly is a selfish pursuit. No one really cares how fast you run and no one really benefits from your running but you.
That’s why I think it’s so strange when runners react negatively to other runners who add an even quirkier element to what they do. For example, people who run races with a stroller, people who joggle (running while juggling), or even people who run Beer Miles. I have heard and read many negative reactions from “pure” runners towards all of these fringe events and their participants. Here is a link to Michal Kapral (the world record holder for running a marathon while juggling) reading the “mean tweets” from runners about his feat: Michal “The Joggler” Kapral Reads Internet Trolling.
It’s a pretty funny video because he obviously doesn’t care what they’re saying. I’m sure his skin has been thickened by years of running past people yelling “Run Forrest – Run!” Yes, we runners are on the receiving end of a lot of jokes and teasing. So why turn on each other? Why not celebrate our differences? If this pursuit really doesn’t matter to anyone but ourselves, then who cares how or with what flair someone decides to put their mark on it? I’m not sure where the negativity stems from – I’m assuming insecurity. Having dedicated so much time and effort to their sport, these people want to believe that running is meaningful and purposeful and pure in and of itself. Guess what: it isn’t. It only matters to you, the runner.
A few weeks ago my kids were running in the x-country city semi-finals. Halfway through the event there was a pause in the schedule of regular grade school races for a race of kids with various different physical disabilities. Some were completing the distance with the help of walkers, some with a guide and others in wheelchairs. All of the able-bodied kids surrounded the course and cheered just as loudly, if not louder for the athletes. It was completely normal that everyone should participate in the way that worked for them. It didn’t occur to the cheerers that anyone couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to participate because they were doing it differently. It also didn’t threaten or take one thing away from how any of the kids saw themselves as runners. They all understood that we’re all doing our own thing out there.
This is one of the things I love about running. It truly is a celebration if individuality and diversity. So whether you’re running in a batman costume or in your underwear or stopping to chug beer every lap or pushing a stroller or juggling balls, or using a walker or wheelchair, I will cheer you on just as loudly if not louder than for the winners of the race.