After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Us versus Them Attitudes In Running - It Can Be a Problem

Wandering around the Internet and at some larger races, I still see some crap that bothers me.

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.

My Experience

I have been on both sides of this fence and looking back towards my attitude when I was a so-called "faster" runner (a wannabee faster runner - not really a good runner, but faster than average) and what I thought back then...

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.


It is great and fine to be a faster runner, but at some point you may not be. What happens then, do you stop running or do you keep running?

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.


  1. Yes, indeed!

    It is funny, on one blog I follow the person linked to another post - and it was one of those 'easy steps to a sub-3 hour marathon in just 13 hours a week'. With loads of condescension and dismissing anyone without 13 hours to give as 'excuses'.

    It was so utterly tone deaf and clueless that I had to comment with an accounting of what time looks like for most people who work and commute and have a family and so on. And that exercising at all can be a struggle depending on your schedule!

    For me at this point - older kids, don't sleep much, 5 mile commute, etc - I can easily make the time, but I very much remember years ago when getting in a 30 minute run every day was the best I could do before my 35 mile Boston area commute ...

    And I have heard and seen and read all of comments and thoughts and looks about slower and larger runners since I got involved in the 'community'. And to be honest for the first nearly 23 years that I was a runner (not that I would ever have called myself that, I didn't 'deserve' it), I assumed that I would be the target of many of those comments ... come to find out I am just a nice happy mid-pack runner. Which is fine by me, I don't judge anyone and am happy with where and who I am.

    Which I think is ultimately the struggle I see - people who are afraid of saying "this is just who I am as a runner." As a result I see people who will run smaller races to get prizes, brag about each victory and put blame elsewhere for each set back and so on. It is a crappy attitude, and I am not sure how it will work into their later years - because it is not an honest look at yourself.

    It is too bad we can't just be happy for everyone and enjoy.

  2. I agree Mike and sometimes it is just changing perspective and "getting some sand in your pants" (life experience) that makes the difference. It is all about perspective and what a runner is looking for from their running. I think a runner is a runner, when they think they are and all the memes and sayings you see flying around the internet or on walls doesn't really matter. We are all experiments of one and need to find our own path as runners, but it sure does help when other runners are there to support you, not purposely or inadvertently become negative towards your goals or achievements. :-) I just like to have fun and push myself the best that I can and support as many other runners in their goals as possible.


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