Simply because it diminishes the running community as a whole and creates a subtle attitude of "us" versus "them" attitude versus welcoming all runners.
What in the hell are you talking about Harold?
Yes, I am getting to be an old curmudgeon and I am talking about, this competitive runner versus recreational runner, fast versus slow runner, runner versus jogger, who are the serious runners and the old who is a "real" runner bullshit that continues.
Some runners don't respect or understand the effort or difficulties that some runners overcome to simply run, much less run what "they" consider a fast pace and bring negativity to an otherwise positive situation.
Running is such a positive experience for so many of us, it is a shame that sometimes that someone with a very narrow view of what or who a runner is, gets to purposely or inadvertently hurt or deflate another runner's great day, by a snide comment or gesture.
It does happen.
All the negativity
Let's be honest - the negative attitudes exist.
I still see too many of the snide or condescending comments in social media and larger races. Unfortunately, I have watched the head shakes, sighs and the dreaded eye roll at bigger races from some (not all) of the "faster" folks out there when it comes to slower runners, bigger runners and those who do not fit the appearance of the stereotypical runner.
Most of the time these comments or attitudes are not done overtly or even on purpose (sometimes they are) after all that is not how we are "supposed" to be or act. Yeah, that stuff isn't spoken publicly in mixed company but I know it is said privately and thought by more runners than we would like to believe.
Then we tend to brush it off and blame the negative attitudes of the few on them being over-competitive, immature or that some people are just asshats and then put the negative attitudes in back in the closet and not talk about how the negativity impacts other runners.
Yeah, well I wasn't all that understanding of the struggles that go on in the middle or back of the pack either.
So I am not a glowing example of goodness or anything either.
It wasn't until I spent time at the back of the pack because I was 50 pounds overweight (see that first photo - yep that was me), coming back from injury, finishing a difficult time professionally and struggling to just run the race's distance.
It was during that time that I realized how hard running is, the many different motivations for running and how much of an asshat I had been in my thoughts and sometimes my actions about those who were slower than I was.
I am now slowing down rapidly and the pack is passing me by, which just part of the aging process as Father Time and injuries take their toll on my speed and abilities. Yes, it is humbling and at times I struggle with how I used to run versus how I run now, but at the same time I have developed a better perspective on the struggles and how hard all runners work to get to where they are.
What can we do?
First of all - respect all runners, whatever their ability level. We are all out there running, making the effort to run...like it is said "a mile is a mile, whether it is at 5:00-minute pace or a 15:00 minute pace.
Sometimes it is human nature to compare yourself to how others are running, but think that even the best runners don't win every race and that there is always someone faster at some point in every runner's career. At most races, the lead pack and back of the pack is determined by who shows up.
Second - take a minute and look at how you perceive other runners, slower and faster than you. Do you see the effort, willpower and all obstacles it takes for them to get out the door and run or do you just look at place and times?
Third - What are their motivations for running? Is it for health, mental health, camaraderie, competition, or something else?
Sometimes we get so hung up on the mentality of you gotta get faster, run further or be competitive in the open division or in your age group that dominate the magazine, blogs, social media and advertising that we forget that there is more to running than running faster or further.
Fourth - Runners are individuals, we are the sport that accepts everyone or at least that is what I believe is our biggest attraction. You can be at just about any level and still be accepted as a member of the running community as a whole.
We are all experiments of one and our reasons for running are our reason, no one else's.
Fifth - For most of us the competition is not with the other runners, but with ourselves. Can we do better than we have before or can we delay slowing down another day. We use races to motivate ourselves to do better than we will during training runs and be a part of a friendly and supportive community that celebrates our small victories with us. If we get an award for an age group or something else it is just gravy.
However, in running it seems that Karma in all her wisdom, at some point in most runner's careers, will show all runners what running in the back of the pack is like.
We will all slow down as we get older, probably will all be injured at some point or stop running for whatever reason and as a part of our comeback spend time a lot further back in the pack than we ever thought we would.
It can be humbling and it does give us a different perspective than those who have never had the pleasure of running at the back of the pack. You learn a lot from hearing the different stories and why the middle and back of the pack runners are out there putting so much time and effort into something that is not easy for many.
The experience can be learning experience.
The reality is that
Running is a great sport that openly welcomes everyone at whatever level they are at and whatever their motivation is for running. However, like any large sport, running has its asshats, that bring negativity, stereotypes and preconceptions of what and who runners are and should be to the table for whatever reason.
Yeah, it may be human nature to subtly or not so subtly look down at others who are not as good at something, in this case - running. So there is a subtle, almost overt attitude at times from some runners in the running community towards those in the middle or the back of the pack, which is unfortunate, but it is there.
We all have to remember another runner's goals or reasons for running, may not be the same as yours and that we may have obstacles in our way that are not apparent to everyone.
The bottom-line is that runners need to be considerate, supportive and respect all the different running goals that all runners have - we are all different and no one has the same goals or motivations.
After all, we are all runners and we have a great community.
Let's all just run and have fun.
This post originally appeared on One Foot In Reality if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission, please go to my site to see the original post.