So I know Runner's World and other magazines talk a lot about runner's etiquette. I think the typical discussion revolves around what to do on a running trail when someone needs to pass you or something along those lines. I'm a big fan of that type of etiquette. I like to hear "On your left!" when a faster runner or a bicyclist is passing me. It lets me know they're looking out for me and that we're both part of a larger community that knows how to behave on public trails.
In any case, there's a different kind of etiquette I wanted to write about tonight. This is the "I'm not going to compete with you" etiquette. That's what I call it at least! Here's the deal...
I was at a barbecue last weekend, and I was chatting with a woman I've met but barely know. She had a baby a little over a year ago, and she has been using running as a way to lose the baby weight. Good for her, right? I tend to be the uber-supportive runner type who thinks that you're a runner whether you jogged down the block and worked your way up from there at a slow pace or you're an elite runner who wins races left and right. We're ALL runners. For that reason, I will NEVER EVER compare myself to another runner for fear of making them think that I'm trying to compete with them or show them up or put them down. To me, running is something I do for me and only me, and there is no reason to compare myself to anyone else or to try to make them feel inferior to me. What fun is that?
So this woman starts talking to me about the half marathon I'm running (she's running it too), and she is telling me how she's been running 30 or 40 miles a week, etc. etc. She then tells me how I'll do great and it's no big deal and she was nervous her first time but now she's better... without ever asking me what my running experiences are like. I was kind of insulted! This will be my fifth half marathon and I've run two full marathons. I know what I'm doing. So I politely tell her I'm fairly experienced, etc. without sounding like a snot. She proceeds to say, "Oh you'll be fine then. What's your best time? How fast do you think you'll run?" Now if someone had been having a low key supportive conversation with me, I would have thought nothing of it. But this woman was literally trying to size me up! What is that??? That is so not the supportive running culture I am a part of! I told her my goal, and she was like "Oh, okay, it sounds like we run the same pace basically." I'm thinking, I really don't care how fast you run, but of course I didn't say that. I just nodded and smiled. :) Maybe I'm different??? Maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's inappropriate to turn running into a competition even if it's a hobby?
I don't know... all I know is that I can guarantee that I will always be the supportive, non-competitive runner. Running (and all forms of exercise) are things we do for ourselves. It is not a competition. It is a personal journey. It is a way of life and it is a part of my identity. I do not need to compare myself to other runners. All I need to do is nod, smile, or wave as they run by knowing that we're both part of the same community of crazy people who lace up and put one foot in front of the other for no reason other than a love of running.