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 the first to announce, with thinly-veiled glee, when a known runner dies of a heart attack.
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.
Jealousy. I know we’re not supposed to talk about the green little beast in a hater’s heart, but let’s discuss him anyway. Jealousy is real and ugly and it’s the main reason people hate runners. I look at all the flat stomachs, rock-hard thighs, and sculpted arms and I almost hate us. We look good and that pisses people off. Maybe if we were shy about it, but no, we wear tight dresses or bikinis at the beach. In our 40s! We walk around like we know we’re hot. Runners aren’t overly tempted to eat or drink too much, we don’t have to wear a lot of makeup, and we aren’t afraid to be seen in our underwear. This rubs more than a few people the wrong way. If someone isn’t feeling good about himself, he’s not going to feel good about you. It’s as simple as that and not really your fault.
The same cannot be said about the other reasons.
Runners have an inflated sense of self. I mean, really. We can run five hours in a row, 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 the collective eye-rolling in 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 her.” 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 third world countries, research cancer and combat hate and prejudice on a regular basis. We, my friend, run around in a circle. 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 OK.
Status updates. You know the face you make when your overweight friend posts recipes for bacon cheeseburgers? 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. 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 Ironman 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. Even if it is in Detroit.
These are the real reasons people hate runners, and you’d be doing everyone a solid favor 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 you 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.
Catherine Durkin Robinson co-parents twin sons, organizes families for political purposes, writes syndicated columns, mentors kids, runs some races and looks for missing socks. Follow her on Twitter: @cdurkinrobinson. Column courtesy of Context Florida.