I’m not in love with team sports. Because I’m an adult and that makes opportunities for organized team sports both minimal and awkward. Because I’m not that good and hate to drag others down to my level. Because I’m not a fan of the team mentality that leaks into competitiveness no matter how low key the game.
So running is perfect for me.
The only person I’m running against is myself. If I choose to race, since I’m not at the front of the pack by any measure, I run to better my own time, to set a new personal best/record. No one to drag down, no weird “be in it to win it” mentality. It’s all on me.
But running is not me out there all on my own, either.
There’s the Runner’s Nod. The chin down mid-stride acknowledgement of another runner on your route. No smile required unless a jog stroller is involved. Even I understand the unwritten rule that you must always smile at babies. And since I run where I live, I see the same group of people. We've gotten to know when we run and where. We wave to each other at races and say hi in restaurants.
There are the Races. Go to a few and you’ll start recognizing faces. Look at the results and you’ll get names. Stick around for the after parties and you start to make friends. Be honest about the times you run, how often you train, and when you’re running again. These people are on an endorphin high and they love what they do. They want to talk about it.
There’s the Running Store. These are places to meet up, talk pace times, sign up for races, bitch about your stride, and exchange best routes. They are also good places to find groups to run with. These often have fun, helpful hint sort of names like “Joggers and Lager1” or “Early Birdies2” or “Daddy and Me3.” The people who work in these places, unlike in Sears, are almost always runners, and they really can help you. Yes, some of them are subsidizing a running career with minimum wage employment, but most are just enthusiasts. They want you to like running. They will not taunt you.
In fact, that’s one of the things that never ceases to amaze me about running. It’s like a cult of crazies who want nothing more than for you to drink their KoolAid.
Try to get into volleyball; all the players want is someone who already knows how to play. Take up tennis and welcome to the cold reality that a match against a craptastic newbie is irritating and long. Really, really long. My all time favorite is ultimate Frisbee. Those kids are crazy, and not so open to teaching as they go. It’s hard core go hard or go home out there. But runners? Not so much. Since everyone already thinks they’re crazy, they’re intrigued by the idea that you might become one of them rather than assuming that you’re competition. Now, there will always be assholes in any sport. People who think that because you run a 30 min 5k you’re a looser. Or don’t do full marathons. But these people are A: asshats, B: few and far between, and C: going to have a come to jesus moment if they keep with the sport long enough. No one runs a sub 2 hour marathon forever. Besides, it’s pretty easy to steer clear of the folks trying to make it to Boston.
I was talked back into running by a marathoner. Encouraged to keep at it by a 1st place finisher at a 5k. Had my stride improved by a guy from four states over as he blew by me at a ½ marathon. These people had nothing to gain from encouraging me.
The reason I’m a runner? They understood that they had nothing to loose either.
It’s why I think you should be a runner to. Get out, see your city. Get some exercise. Sign up for a charity race. Don’t worry about your time. You’ll get there.
1Guess which one I joined?
2Yes, runners are freaks and many of them think it’s totally good times to go 10 miles at 5am.
3How bad of me is it that one dad with stroller is cute, but a herd of them is freaky? That bad, hunh?