My Take on the WSJ Stafko ‘Running’ Article

This has nothing to do with the article, but since it declines at the end it must be bad, right?

This has nothing to do with the article, but since it declines at the end it must be bad, right?

This week the Wall Street Journal published an article by a columnist named Chad Stafko titled “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It”. The article itself is more or less a throwaway, not much better than a post called ‘The Death of Running’, where the author claims that the ‘running trend’ is dying because he sees fewer running pics on Instagram these days. Um, yeah.

Anyway, the article has stirred up quite a bit of energy in the running community – energy that would be better spend on doing burpees or fartleks, but I digress. The funniest thing I have read so far is the take from Runner’s World’s Mark Remy. I shared the link on Facebook separately, but here is one of my favorite sections:

A few days ago, one of these running friends said, after describing a recent run: “Why do I keep doing this?” I have no idea.

TRANSLATION: I don’t understand irony.

Why would someone want to get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape to avoid being struck by someone who has the good sense to use a car for a 10-mile journey?

TRANSLATION: I don’t understand things that are not immediately apparent.

I laughed because as I have noted before, Lisa asks me after every race as she watches some not-so-good looking folks struggle across the finish line “… and you LIKE doing this to yourself”?

And I also laughed because back in our first apartment on Great Road in Acton MA when we were engaged (living in sin! ooh!), one morning she decided to head out for a run with me … it was a crisp April morning, and she got less than a half mile before saying ‘It is cold, dark and scary … I’m going home!’ She never tried again, but understands that it is something that is part of who I am.

While I think the article is basically crap and don’t really take it seriously, there are a few things I wanted to address:

“There is only one reason running aficionados display the stickers. They want the rest of us to know about their long-distance feats.”

Since reading the article I have looked around at cars in the parking lots at different locations of my work, and also at the grocery store down the road. I saw ONE 13.1 sticker on a car … but saw loads of others. Many for sports teams, or stick-figure families, or death commemorations, with plenty of right-wing religious and political slogans in the mix, and a Coexist and Recycle theme on the back of one car. The most popular? ‘God-Guns-Country’.

“When they’re not out there sweating through the miles, they can relax with a running magazine. Reading. About running.”

This point is just bizarre … because one look inside a running magazine shows WHY you might want to read one if you are a runner: the same reason a musician reads a music magazine, and so on. There are tips, tricks, hints, techniques and great stories in the magazines. So the fact that someone with an interest in running and improving their skills would be interested is so strange?

“Like the 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers, this apparel serves a clear purpose: We can look at them and immediately know that the person wearing it is a runner”

That’s funny – I wear proper-fitting running shoes to avoid injury; and I wear running clothes that help wick sweat away from me, and that keep me warm in sub-zero temperatures while allowing me to move.

But after wearing this stuff for 50+ miles per week, I find myself drawn to it from a general comfort angle. There have been times when I’ve run and showered and changed into clothes and had my kids ask if I was going out for my run. It isn’t about ‘showing off’, but about comfort.

“There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running. These days, people want more than ever to be seen”

So what it all comes down to for the author is that the runners who are forming the current ‘boom’ are nothing more than narcissists who so teeribly need to have their egos stroked that they are willing to undergo intense physical training and hardship? Not seeing it.

Here are a few thoughts:
– Running might be ‘visible’, but it is also relatively easy to do. It is a solo activity, and for me it just requires getting up, getting dressed and heading out the door.
– Also, most of those wearing reflective gear are running in low-light situations, meaning they are not terribly visible. Certainly I am not out at 4:30 every morning looking for a crowd of adoring fans!
– I have yet to meet someone who was running a marathon or half-marathon (with cut-off times when the course closes, no less) just for the attention. There are ways to get attention that are less torturous on your body!
– I have met some really cool people at marathon and half-marathon races who were there for a variety of reasons: from tragedy to triumph. At my first Wineglass Marathon I was amazed at how many of the people in our pace group had started running due to some sort of loss; and while I have no death, disease or divorce in my reasons for running … apparently the nearly 100 pounds I had lost during 2012 was ‘loss’ enough.

My point is that people generally start running because they have heard it is a good way to lose weight & get in shape. And to the surprise of some – they actually like it! Sure there are many folks who go out and participate in 5kMud Runs or Color Runs or charity events who have no real interest in running – and I have no idea how many will be doing any running in 5 years.

And I totally get that some people look at runners and have no clue WHY we do what we do – and that is fine. But the reality is that we are doing it for ourselves – for our health, weight, fitness, peace of mind or whatever other reason. If we have a sticker on our car we are proud, not showy. If we wear a shirt from a race, it is no different than wearing one you got from a sports team or at a corporate event.

So Mr. Stafko – get over yourself, because none of us is running for YOUR benefit.


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