Thursday, September 26, 2013

Every Race Its Runner, Every Runner His Race (A Ranty Pants Moment)

For the first time in ... well, since I started this running thing, I ran into a detractor. I'm used to people rolling their eyes when I start talking running and races and such. That's called #runnerworldproblems. But when I mentioned a medal for finishing a 10 mile race this coming Sunday, she outright laughed. "So, like, one of those everyone who participates gets a medal?!"

No, sweetie, everyone who finishes 10 FREAKING MILES gets a medal. And that's not everyone.

I know she's not a runner herself, so I mostly shrugged it off. Mostly. But I see article after article about how running as a sport is being "dumbed down" for the masses by tossing in finisher medals or gimmicks into fun runs. Like somehow, having a run with paint thrown at you or no timing chips means We Can't Have Nice Things at the Olympics.

I came to the following conclusion: if you are offended by that race, then it is not your race. Find the race that's for you.

In my civilian (aka non-running) life, I'm a librarian. I hear similar things about books--that if it's not Capital-L-Literature-with-a-British-Accent, it doesn't count as reading. But we librarians adhere to Ranganathan's Laws, the second and third of which are every reader his book, and every book his reader. Yes, I can pull out peer-reviewed articles on how well educated the average romance reader is or the different types of brain functions that occur when reading a comic book, but will that change the opinion of the elitist who thinks James Joyce is the only legitimate kind of reading? Probably not.

Bottom line: If it's not your book, then it's not your book. And that's okay. But it may be mine.

Corollary: If it's not your race, then it's not your race. And that's okay. But it may be mine. No one made you the Gatekeeper of Running.

Most runners I know are amazingly supportive and encouraging to one another, no matter their experience or fitness level. I have friends who run marathons without even training. I have friends who started running after I did that run longer and faster than I do. I'm not going to pretend I'm not jealous sometimes, but I know that their journey is not mine. And that's okay. I have friends who struggle with a two minute run. I have friends who never want to go beyond a 5K. And that's okay too. But we are all runners.

We. Are. Runners. Period.

Whatever gets you up and moving is right for you. I'm over the color-flinging races myself, but if that still brings you joy, do it! If you want a full marathon, do it! I like running costumes. Some would argue that doesn't make me a "serious runner." If "serious runner" means speed, then you might be right--I am very slow and I make a ton of newbie mistakes. But don't tell me I'm not serious if I'm getting up before dawn in all weather on a consistent basis.

And don't laugh at me for being motivated by a medal.That bauble is the difference between What I Already Know I Can Do and What I'm Not Quite Sure I Can Do But I'm Going to Damn Well Try. If that isn't the spirit of athleticism, I'm not sure what is.

It's my race, and I'm going to run it.

I may wear it to work on Tuesday just to show off my awesomeness, gorramit.