Thursday, September 23, 2010

Runner's Etiquette

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.


  1. This is a great topic! :)

    It is very difficult to answer and will be an entire blog post in itself haha. My wife loves running as a hobby. It took me awhile to understand that but after a few months I think I was able to grasp her perspective.

    Myself however, I use running as a personal meter. I try to beat MY PRs... not other peoples. I thoroughly enjoy seeing how far I can push my body and what I am actually capable of. That being said, I commend and congratulate every single person I see running or biking because I am a HUGE supporter of getting out and doing something/enjoying nature.

    I know a lot of people like the baby's momma you were describing. They judge themselves based on everyone around them and feel better about themselves if they are better than you or the next person. It is a shame.

    While I do not have your perspective, I understand it, and I think you are doing it for all the right reasons :) I did not realize you had 5 half marathons under your belt already :) Good JOB! You have more distance races logged than I do!!!

    Hopefully everything is going well for you and your training is where you want it! Good luck at your upcoming race!

  2. Thanks for the note! I'm definitely the "compete with myself" type!

  3. Hey Alissa - it's my first time reading your blog and I'm so happy this was the first entry I read! Many times I find myself falling victim to comparing my running experience w/ others'. Even on my runs I find myself saying "well if so-and-so can run at a faster pace, then so can I . . . " and it totally sabotages the enjoyment of the run. Shouldn't the running be clearing my head and not clogging it up? lol I sometimes find the line between being inspired by others and competing with their successes very blurry. Thank you for opening my eyes to this flaw. I need to just keep running for me and my own growth.

    What I do love about running is the un-spoken runners' alliance out there on the road - the mutual respect for other runners on the path. The silent wave or nod. We all vary in our strides, our posture, our miles, our habits, our recovery, our training, but we all know the mental strength it takes to go to the next level. We know the clarity and self-esteem boost that comes after a good run, race, or PR and it's what bonds us out there on the road.

    Happy running! I'm so happy I came across your blog!

  4. A....!!! It's so good to read your blog again! You have a PERFECT PERSPECTIVE on this topic, IMO. Competition is FANTASTIC when we are competing against our own personal is what drives us and motivates us and lurches us forward into untrampled terrain with our bodies...BUT...competing against other runners/athletes/exercises, etc. is dangerous territory. It's what discourages people, breaks them down and causes injuries. God created each of us unique and individual and what you can do (or how fast you can do it) has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with how successful I am. If you're faster...that doesn't make me "less good" and if I'm faster, that doesn't make me "better". It's all silliness really. But a great topic and I'm sorry you had to go through that dumb conversation with over-eager new mommy who thinks she needs to look/feel better than someone else so she can feel good about herself. Give her the benefit of the doubt...maybe she's very insecure and just thought it would help her self-esteem to "mother" you on the subject of running. Even tho you coulda SCHOOLED HER BUTT all the way through running college! HA HA
    Just listen to me...I sound as immature as she did.
    anyway, I love you girl and I'm so happy I hopped over to your trusty blog to see what you're up to!