I’ve been running for less than a year. I’m not fast but I love it. I’ve ran for fun and I’ve paid for races. I’ve completed training programs, subscribed to Runner’s World, participate in #runchat and #fitblog, and bought expensive running gear. I talk about running with my family, my boyfriend and friends who don’t run. But am I a runner? According to some, no.
As a whole, I think the running community is an extremely supportive and inviting place. It’s been really strange to see a wave of negativity about who “true runners” are pop up in the last few weeks. The first time I ever read a comment that people who take walk breaks are not real runners was when Kelly Gneiting ran the LA Marathon and set the Guinness World Record as the heaviest man to finish. I was appalled to see comments like these:
“A marathon is a race. 26.2 miles is a distance. You can’t call this bit of lumbering around Los Angeles a marathon any more than you can call a walk across the street and back a 100 meter dash.”
“Marathon times exceeding 5 hours should not be counted at all.”
There were people popping out of the woodwork dropping serious negativity all over this guy’s accomplishment. It was definitely a sensationalized news story, but it upset me. Why should his time matter? He completed the race. Kelly Gneiting wasn’t even the last place finisher. He ran about 1/3 of the race and he should be able to call himself a runner if he wants. Jeff Galloway doesn’t seem to mind walk breaks and he’s an Olympian so why are readers of the LA times so angsty?
I put the negativity out of my mind until this weekend. Many people saw a post over at Frayed Laces (a grad student, amateur triathlete, and a runner who ran Boston a few years ago) this weekend in which she bemoaned the existence of casual runners – or as she referred to them “chicken nugget runners”. Apparently, FL heard a piece on NPR about a TNT group training for the Nashville Country Music Marathon whose reward after running was chicken nuggets and this upset her. She’s deleted the post, and her equally offensive follow up but it was still in my Google Reader so I can quote her accurately (screen shot here, here)
“what I want to scream out is “I train 20 hours a week! I push myself in training to the point of puking! You’re doing this once to cross something off your life goal list, and I train harder-harder-harder to get faster each year! I eat, sleep, breathe this sport!”So, are there too many marathon runners? No, there aren’t. There are too many “chicken nuggets at the end!” marathon runners and not enough “eat, sleep, breathe” runners”
There were a lot of people who respectfully disagreed with her and pointed out that her time is the same regardless of other people’s times and reasons for running. More surprisingly there were a lot of people who replied with comments that bashed casual runners (one comment that stands out in my memory was from a guy who said he didn’t understand why someone with a 3:30 marathon PR would be proud of their time since it was nearly 90 minutes above the world record. He said he’d be so embarrassed he wouldn’t tell anyone he ran if he was ever that slow). While everyone didn’t share the same opinion, I was fascinated by people’s emotions on the topic. It seemed like there was a decent contingent of runners who have strong opinions on whether casual and slower than Boston caliber runners should be walking around saying they’re a runner. After her follow up post, more people commented in the form of disagreement than agreement and she ended up deleting both posts
I was kind of disturbed about this (I unfollowed FL on twitter and unlinked her blog from my blogroll) but I almost put this out of my mind until today, when Heather from Running with Sass had a 3 month old marathon recap’s comments spammed. Some guy was thoroughly offended that she said she “ran” the Disney Marathon when she stopped to take pictures with the characters.
” I get a little mad when people say they’ve run a marathon and it took them over 6 hours. That’s not running a marathon. That is completing a marathon. Two COMPLETELY different things.”
Readers of Heather’s blog were obviously supportive and came to her defense but the guy came back and commented 3 more times arguing that there was no way she should be calling herself a runner.
So here’s my question: What do you think makes a runner? Honestly, I’m really curious to hear opinions on this. I’ll start the discussion with my opinion – if you identify yourself as a runner then you’re a runner. If you leave for a workout with the intention of running, you plan for running, you try to run then who am I to judge the level of your workout? I may not be fast but I am a runner. I think running is an individual sport, like golfing. For example, my dad belongs to a golf course and plays regularly. He’s terrible but he has fun. He taught my brother to golf. He owns clubs. He’s a golfer. He’s not professional and he never says he is, but he’s certainly a golfer.
Please don’t hold back in the comments. If you disagree with me, please (respectfully) tell me why.