Do you ever get tired of going to a track or cross country meet and watching a fight break out before the meet? The teams come out to the 50 yard line, stomp on the other team’s logo and the fists start flying? Or right before your next 5k or half marathon, does the trash talk between competing runners drive you nuts? Of course not because it just doesn’t happen. Runners are the nicest people. A runner would be more likely to go out of their way to give a competitor some of their extra safety pins or point out the way to where the porta-pot lines are shorter than to ever try to hinder another runner’s performance. Maybe it’s because playing defense isn’t really a thing in a running race. We can try to go as fast as we can but we can’t try to slow down someone else. Or maybe, just maybe it’s because we are just nice people.
Why is that? What is it about runners that makes them lovers not fighters? At least for distance runners we are mostly skinny little twerps; as pictured above who are much better equipped for running than fighting. But I believe it is much more than that. I think some of it is because we all share a bond brought about by mutual sacrifice. You know what it took you to get where you are and you respect others who have made the same or more sacrifice to get their own level of fitness. Sweating together, seeing what each other look like at the end of a hard race eliminates any airs of uppity behavior. We all look like crap at the end of a race, at least until you pound down that post-race sports drink and get your wind back. Shared misery is a great equalizer. Not many things make you look less cool than being watched as you puke after a race.
But mostly I think that running just attracts a friendly group of people. Running in a small town as I do is great. If another runner is passing you going the other way, there is always eye contact, a smile or wave, usually a “hi, how you doing?” and once in a while a high five if you are near each other. A runner passing you going the same direction will often end up with a short conversation or at least some encouraging words. Although I find it interesting that when I run in a large city it’s not the same. Maybe it’s the anonymity of the big city but other runners tend to not make eye contact or acknowledge your presence. That always puzzles me and makes me appreciate the small town.
I really like the atmosphere at road races. Runners who don’t take part in the occasional race just don’t understand what they are missing. I hear it all the time. “Oh, I’m just not into competition” or “I’m not fast enough to run a race”. Well guess what, the vast majority of people in that race know they are never going to win. They know ahead of time that they are about to finish way behind the jackrabbits at the front of the pack. But they don’t care. They are out to have a good time, see what they can do compared to what they have done before and just enjoy the camaraderie. Runners invariably are happy to share their training tips or offer advice to a fellow runner at a race who has stumbled onto a problem the other runner has dealt with before. It’s all smiles at the end of the race (once the puking is over) as runners and their supporters mingle with refreshments, applaud the award winners and generally have a good time with each other.
So, what can you do to try to perpetuate the happiness of the running community? First, give your fellow runners a wave when you pass each other on the streets. When running on a street and an oncoming car swings out to give you a wide berth, wave at them. They went out of their way, literally, to make your run safer. Be free to answer questions from beginning runners and encourage them every chance you get. That will never slow you down. In fact, getting with other runners who are faster than you will make you a better runner yourself. Last of all, for a great day at the next 5k, unless you are one of the few who might win, there isn’t any reason to run hard enough to puke. That’s not fun. Just enjoy the day, the people around you and your ability to run. Life is good when you are a runner.
Keep running my friends!