A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal published a piece called “Ok, You’re a Runner. Now Get Over It.” Naturally, my social media feeds were blowing up about this article (although my sample was obviously skewered because I follow so many runners, running blogs, and other running publications.) Runners World wrote a great “come-back” piece to the author of the original, and one other blogger whom I follow regularly wrote a response as well.
Dear Mr. Stafko,You don’t know me, and I’m sure my opinion doesn’t actually make one bit of difference to you. In fact, you’re glad that I’m writing this letter, because that means you accomplished your goal–you stirred the pot and generated a great deal of hype around your recent Wall Street Journal article. Congratulations, you’ve managed to mildly irritate (or maybe even offend) more than 15 million people. Here’s my response to your article, written in list form to keep it simple and readable.1. I have a 13.1 sticker on my car (and a triathlon sticker, but that’s not really the point). I am sitting here thinking about those stickers as I write this, and considering why I like having them on my car. I can tell you that no one has ever commented on them to me, and while I am driving down the road, I am certainly not thinking “wow, if feels so great to think that every car behind me knows that I’ve completed a half marathon.” So no, I don’t put those stickers on my car for attention. I put them there for myself, to remember what I have accomplished. Finishing the races that those stickers represent are some of the proudest moments in my life. Those stickers are a constant, visual reminder to myself of how far I have come and what I have accomplished. And you better believe that after I finish the Disney Princess Half, I’ll be swapping out my generic 13.1 sticker for a Mickey shaped one.
2. I wear clothes like my new Brooks “Run Happy” shirt because they are comfortable and cute. I don’t wear those types of clothes out in public on a regular basis, but rather only after I have been out on a run or at the gym. If I need to stop at the grocery store on my way home from the gym, I am not going to think twice about it. Again, it’s not a cry for attention…this is just convenience, plain and simple. And why did I choose to buy a “Run Happy” shirt? Because it makes me happy. It makes me smile. It’s a good reminder to myself that running is a privilege, not a chore. And that’s good enough for me.
3. Why do running stores and running magazines (or running blogs) for that matter exist? Because they serve a niche of the population and they serve it well! The WSJ article notes that Runners World has 660,000 subscribers and that 15.5 million people finished running events in 2012. If I was seeing numbers like that and I was an entrepreneur, I would cater to the masses, too! I subscribe to Runners World and look forward to my magazine arriving each month. I’m lucky enough to have not one, but two specialty running stores (Up and Running and Runners Plus) located within 10 miles of my home, and I frequent them both. Note to the WSJ author: these stores actually carry more than just shoes and clothes as you claim. You can buy your hated 13.1 or 26.2 stickers at these stores, for starters! Or you can stock up on foam rollers, hats, sweaty bands, GPS watches, heart rate monitors, water bottles, fanny packs, and nutritional supplements, just to name a few things.
4. Why are 15.5 million people taking to the pavement and running races each year? And why do they keep doing it when you’ve heard friends say things like “I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself” after a particularly bad race or run? I have a few theories, mostly from my own experience. Those theories are as follows:– Running is the every man’s (or woman’s) sport. You can do it with minimal equipment, without a gym membership, and without any experience. Running can be for anyone who wants to do it.-There is ample information available for free online about how to get started and how to train. There are also 5ks practically every weekend in any given town. Anyone who decides she wants to train for a 5k can simply pick a goal race, register, print out a training plan, and do it. There are countless opportunities and resources available to runners, new and old.–Running is a challenge against yourself. You can always strive to run the next race faster, train for a farther distance, or set any other goal you see fit. For me personally, having a fitness goal through running plays a huge part in my motivation to keep working out regularly.-It doesn’t have to be serious. There are so many fun races out there, like the Color Run or the Hot Chocolate 5k that I am doing this weekend.–Running can be a social opportunity, if you want it to be. Though I am usually a solo runner, I really enjoy running with my mom or sister when we have the time, and I wouldn’t have made it through my last few half marathon training runs without my friend Lauren for company. If you like the social aspect of running, check to see if your local running store hosts weekly running groups. I knot that ours do.–You will be hard pressed to find another community to be a part of that is more welcoming and encouraging than the running one. One of the best parts of running a race is having other runners urge you along when the going gets tough. Though I usually hate out and back races, I love being able to cheer for the other runners when we see them ( first the elites as they whiz past me on their way to the finish, and then the stragglers at the end–especially those at the end. Because it’s not about finishing first or last, it’s about getting it done. And the running community is simply amazing about recognizing that and supporting every runner across the finish line– from the first one to the last.In sum, running isn’t about a need for attention. More accurately, Mr. Stafko, it appears that you, in fact, actually have a deep rooted need for attention. Furthermore, the WSJ knew that by running this piece, it would cause a viral stir–because face it, mocking something that 15 million people are passionate about is surely going to get a few people worked up. So congratulations, Mr. Stafko and the WSJ–you have certainly created a buzz surrounding this piece.My suggestion to you? Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. Sign up for a 5K race, train for it, and go run. You might just find yourself relating to those 15.5 million runners in the world after all