Did you catch this article from Steve Jones: “Starting and Finishing a Marathon Doesn’t Make You a Marathoner”. The article was published three years ago, and I started this post almost as long ago. It languished on the back burner a long time. If you missed it, you can read it here.
It didn’t sit well with me, despite the fact that I haven’t even run a marathon. People like to excuse him by saying he’s a relic of a different time, when runners didn’t wear GPS watches or eat during a run or have cushy running shoes, for that fact.
Yet there are plenty of old school runners, runners who have won Olympic medals or run across our fine country before the Internet and cell phones, elite runners — all of whom are incredibly encouraging to any runner.
Just what are my running sins, anyway?
So just how did I ruin running, anyway, and just what are my sins?
- I walk during races. And not just at water stops, either, although that’s bad enough. No, I walk every couple of minutes.
- I have never won a race. I will never win a race. I am not even in the “running”. And I’ve never won an AG (age group award), either — never even come close.
- I have lots and lots of cute running clothes. And lots of skirts, for God’s sake. Even sparkly skirts.
- I wear a GPS watch and often consult it during a race.
- I have never dry heaved after a race (or a speed workout).
Why running is good even for us turtles
Yes, I enter races knowing I will be middle of the pack — if I’m lucky — and more likely back of the pack. No doubt you can walk faster than I can run. Yet I am not simply trying to get from start to finish.
The reason I enter races is to challenge myself. Can I run a smarter race? Can I push a little harder — but not so hard that I end up injured? Can I race hard in the heat? At elevation?
Do I push myself as hard as you used to push yourself, Steve? No, probably not. Definitely not, since I’m not out there puking on the course.
But I am pushing myself. I take my running seriously (even while trying to have fun with it). I always have. It’s the old “anything worth doing is worth doing well”.
We turtles work just as hard as the hares. We sweat as much, we’re often pounding the pavement for far longer, and we keep coming back for more despite the lack of awards (but not lack of rewards).
Here’s the thing, though, Steve — what the heck business is it of yours?
Why do we really bother you, Steve? Just how are we hurting you? Surely if more people follow the sport of running, that can only be a good thing for the sport? More exposure = more $$ for prize money and sponsorship and attracting more young people to the sport.
Races are canceled all the time because they simply aren’t profitable. They are more likely to survive by attracting those “fun” runners. Those “fun” runners are often raising money for worthy charities, too.
The fun runners don’t detract from the achievements of the serious and/or elite runners.
Far from ruining running, I’d argue that I saved it
It should never matter to those in the front, middle, or back how I run. Whether I wear a watch or not, walk or not, or even dance across that finish line . . . I will never make it too crowded for the elite runners; I will never be in their way. I can cheer them on in awe, however, if I happen to see them while I am still on the course (doubtful, they’re usually finished long before I even get to start).
I can make other people think, as I often say, “if she can do it, so can I”. Who knows what budding Shalane is lining a race course and high fiving the fun runners, encouraging us and drawing inspiration from us?
My participation in this sport can help the budding running stars of tomorrow. And the ones, like me, who will never see a podium finish but will see so many benefits from running and staying active.