Warning: Sharp Elbows!

Ah, the running community.

Runner at the start

Runner at the start (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To an outsider looking in, the running community seems like a tight-knit yet welcoming, supportive, encouraging, motivational group.

And for the most part, that is true.

However, if you hang out in the community long enough – and by “hang out” I mean read running magazines, read running blogs, join a running group on Facebook, follow runners on Twitter, and so on – you’ll find that the there are members of the community who aren’t quite as supportive, who aren’t quite as encouraging, who aren’t quite as motivational as you’d think at first glance. There are members of the running community who are smug, self-righteous, and sanctimonious. They are the ones who have sharp elbows.

Right now you’re thinking, “The same is true for any group, for any community!” That’s true, I agree. Every group or community has members that don’t always show the group or community in its best light.

It could just be that I’ve been overly sensitive these past couple of months as my running hasn’t been quite where I want it to be or where it needs to be.

I was browsing around on Facebook one day and ran across Runner’s World magazine Facebook page.  The page had a link to a Runner’s World blog of motivational poster #31. The poster had a picture of an obviously overweight man sitting on a couch with a remote in his hand and he was lit by what we are to assume was the television. The poster was captioned, “Can’t find 30 minutes a day to exercise? Look harder.”

The poster in itself, I had no problems with. What did strike a nerve, however, were the comments on the Facebook post and the blog comments. A majority of them just struck me as sanctimonious and self-righteous. There were posts from people who said they never watched television and couldn’t understand people who did. I understand not watching television – after my trip to Costa Rica a few years ago, I didn’t watch television for nearly six months.

But to say that you cannot understand people who do watch television? To smugly announce all the things that keep you so busy during the day that you don’t have time to watch television? To self-righteously say that the people who do watch television deserve all the health problems they end up with? To snicker at people who aren’t quite as fit and trim and healthy as you are? I have a problem with that. I have a problem with the judgmental tone that some of the comments took.

I watch television. I watch up to two hours each weeknight. Sometimes three. More on the weekends when there’s baseball, football, or tennis being broadcast. Am I staring at the television the entire time? No, I’m usually going through my mail, flipping through a magazine, working on a crossword puzzle, writing in my journal, chatting with my parents during commercial break. Would I use those two or three hours to run? Not likely because I generally run in the morning. Would those other runners sneer at me because of that? Probably.

We shouldn’t be sneering at overweight people who would rather watch television than exercise for 30 minutes. We should be trying to help them, trying to support them, trying to motivate them. We shouldn’t be thinking that we are better than they are – for all we know, they may bring more worth to the world in their daily lives than we do with all our running miles, running shorts, and running shoes. We shouldn’t be deriding people whose time management skills aren’t as good as ours. We should be finding ways to encourage them and work with them to change or improve their habits.

Runners should support people, not tear them down. Runners should encourage people to share their healthy lifestyle, not mock them. Runners should share their love for running, not make snide comments about the sedentary.

Since the time I happened across that Facebook posting and that blog post – and some other blog posts and comments in a Facebook running group that I’m part of – it’s been hard to think of runners in a positive way. It’s okay because I think those self-righteous, sanctimonious, and smug people probably wouldn’t call me a runner. They’d probably snidely call me a jogger.

That doesn’t bother me – I’ll label myself, thank you very much. In the meantime, I’m doing all I can to avoid runners with sharp elbows – in real life and in the digital world. I hope you do, too.

Happy Running!

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