I’ll admit I didn’t read the original WSJ article first, but rather Runner’s World’s translation. TL;DR version: Mr. Stafko rants how runners spend time and effort and money on their running and then do what are clearly attention-seeking maneuvers by putting stickers on their cars or posting pictures on Facebook or wearing race shirts or [gasp!] running outdoors in public.
Yeah, ultimately he says the only reason that anyone runs EVER is because they want to impress people. #bangsheadondesk
As I started reading I sighed, scoffed, and rolled my eyes at this idiot. And I started mentally composing a sarcastic response.
How dare people do things they love in public! Or spend money on things they love! Or post pictures on Facebook of things they love! Like your kids! And your significant other! And your home! And your pets! Keep your hobbies private, everyone, and whatever you do don’t EVER be proud of ANY accomplishment.
As I read further, though, I mentally deleted that response. Because I honestly just felt bad for the guy. Seriously, it must suck to go through life with that much bitterness! I sincerely hope that he was going for satire, because otherwise I don’t know how he could continue to stand being “friends” with the runners he refers to in the article – or how they could stand being friends with him.
But I also felt bad for the guy because I used to be him. Maybe not with that level of bitterness (I hope?), but I didn’t understand runners and why they ran and it seemed dumb to run “for fun” as opposed to if you were in mortal peril. Admittedly, part of that was jealousy over not being able to / having the discipline to do it myself – as I mentioned previously.
Why do I run? Because it’s hard.
Physically, running is without a doubt the most difficult thing I have ever done. I did some dance as a kid and also two years in marching band and some occasional hiking, but those were the only “active” type activities I engaged in. And while all could be a bit strenuous at times (heavy, heavy cymbals…), when I got tired I’d rest or I could easily tap out.
With running, I had to learn to push through the fatigue. To run three miles when I wanted to stop after two. Then to run six miles when I wanted to stop at four. And sometimes to run thirteen miles when I wanted to stop at one. And to run at all when I would rather be sitting on the couch. Running STILL sucks, but through learning to run I learned that God made me stronger and more capable than I ever realized.
Admittedly, there are some times when I want people to tell me “good job”.
But most of the time when I run in public it’s because… well… running indoors on a track or treadmill is boring – especially when you can watch the gorgeous sunset like I did last night. (And, btw, every runner who was out last night was running faster than me.)
And I go to running stores to buy gear because Walmart doesn’t carry compression sleeves. And – for me – if I picked up a random pair of Target running shoes, I’d hurt my shin splints even more. I don’t buy them online because I like to know that they fit, and I like the community of gathered people who are passionate about something. (Maybe this is how the people who camp out for new iPhones feel?)
And most of the time when I wear a race shirt it’s because I need to wear a shirt. Or because I like that shirt (sniffle, fave purple BB2013 shirt, where did you go?!). Or because shirts indicate “You’re a runner too?” which equals instant conversation starter for this awkward introvert.
I’ve gotten better at runner these past three years. I’m faster and my technique has improved, but it’s still really hard. And each time I start a run I think, “Ugh, why am I doing this?” But at the end of the run, I did it – which makes me feel awesome. And it’s changed the way I view life. I used to think running was impossible. But if a girl who never ran more than a mile in gym can learn to run half marathons, what else can I do? Maybe life’s obstacles aren’t as unsurmoutable as they appear to be. And I can do all things through Christ.
The bottom line is that I don’t run for what you think, Mr. Stafko, or for what anyone else thinks. I do it for me. And, yes, I’m darn proud of it. And even thinking of putting a 13.1 sticker on my car not to rub it in your face, but to remind myself as I drag my feet home after a long day that even though I was just handed a daunting project at work, if I can run a half marathon I can do this, too.
Congratulations though, Mr. Stafko, on writing something that everyone is talking about. But runners are not going anywhere. So get over it.
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Edited to add:
Sure enough, the running blogospher is blowing up about this article. I read quite a few great responses from folks, but this excerpt from a guy in NYC really sums it all up SO well in my opinion (Colin, I’d like to fly to NYC and shake your hand):
Ultimately I don’t care what Chad Stafko thinks about how I choose to spend my time. He doesn’t know me, and he’ll never read this. What truly bothers me is his attitude, and the fact that it was amplified by a mouthpiece like the Wall Street Journal. That’s disheartening. It’s petty. It’s helpful to no one, and it’s certainly not news. Aren’t we supposed to be up in arms about how fat and slobby and unambitious we are? About how we’re being outpaced by everyone around us? About how our kids don’t understand hard work, or how anything worth getting is difficult to get?