WOOOOHOOO I REMEMBERED MY PASSWORD!
*Ahem* sorry about that. In all honesty, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block recently, trying to figure out what direction I wanted to take these posts moving forward. There’s only so many miles, pun fully intended, I can milk from my training and ridiculous running stories. Though one word of advice on the running front; always, always, ALWAYS look at a course map before you do a race. When you don’t, you wind up like me during the Yuengling Light Lager Jogger and wind up running a 5K UP A DAMN MOUNTAIN. I was definitely not ready for a course that was 86% steady incline, 13.5% obnoxious hills and .5% going downhill. But I digress.
This year I’ve already finished the Philly Love Run, the aforementioned Mountain 5K of Doom, and Broad Street, with two Tough Mudders, a Spartan Trifecta and any number of local runs I’ll get shanghaied into this summer on the docket. So when I told this one guy I work with that I had just finished Broad Street in the pouring rain, thanks for that Mother Nature, he said something fairly innocuous but it still stuck with me. “You don’t look like a runner.”
That one sentence has stuck in the back of my mind for the better part of a week and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it did. By every socially accepted stereotype I don’t look like a runner. I look like I work out a bit but won’t say no to tacos and drunken tater tots. When people are asked to describe what a runner looks like, they will overwhelming say they expect them to in peak physical shape, most likely on the taller and thinner side of the spectrum, and when not running, they can be found eating the latest vegan food craze. That’s how society has been trained to view runners for decades. But the truth of the matter is, the average runner does not fit into those neat boxes. For every Olympic level runner you see on TV every 4 summers, there are countless other people out there with a wide variety of body types running every day for their own reasons.
I’m not mad about what he said, far from it. I laughed it off and said some off the cuff joke about being double the size of your stereotypical runner. But that’s the problem with stereotypes across the board, they’re too broad and they put up too many barriers. In the case of running, with this image that runners are these super humans in peak physical condition, the people out there that want to start running start comparing their times to that of the people out there that have been doing this for years and then get discouraged and abandon running altogether.
I’m not saying that fixing the perception of “what a runner looks like” is going to completely remedy the problem of people giving running up before they have the chance to experience the simple joys of getting faster, nailing a PR, or just going out for a quick 20 minute run and forgetting their problems for a little bit. But it will help. And a world that relies less on stereotypes and more on getting to know actual people sounds like a good place to strive towards.