It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. There are a lot of reasons for this – the holidays came up, my travel schedule this year has been more intense than in prior years, I’ve chosen to spend time goofing off, etc. But the main reason I’ve not written is that after the 2012 NWM, I became disenchanted with the running community. To be specific, the online running community. To be even more specific, the online running groups on Facebook.
The social aspect – online or in real life – has never been part of why I run. So it’s been frustrating that I let my disenchantment with these online running groups affect my running.
In these past few months, I’ve tried to overcome my disenchantment with my fellow runners. For me, part of overcoming any feeling is figuring out why. Why was I disenchanted with my fellow runners as a result of running groups on Facebook?
I could tell you specific reasons and even share screenshots with you. But that wasn’t the why that I needed to understand. The why that I needed to understand went deeper. Why was I letting these Facebook running groups bother me so? Even after I left the groups and deleted the chats?
For a long time, I couldn’t answer that question. But on a recent trip, I read a brief bit in Hemispheres, the inflight publication of United Airlines, that said we remember things that we see in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) better and longer than things we see in any other medium. They aren’t quite sure why. They speculate it’s because of the chatty, gossipy nature of social media.
Somehow, after reading that handful of paragraphs, I felt validated for letting those Facebook running groups bother me. And although I’m not ready to engage with those groups again, I am ready to put those bad episodes behind me. I’ve achieved closure as a result of that magazine blurb and plan to get back in the habit of posting regularly.
Have you ever simmered, seethed, and steamed over a Facebook post or a Tweet? Share in the comments below!
More random thoughts while pounding out the miles both on the road and on my trusty treadmill:
Why did everyone swoon over Han Solo instead of Luke Skywalker?
Why do people put their mobiles on speaker and then hold the phone up next to their mouths? Do they think that speakerphone is the same thing as “hands free”?
Why do people treat public toilets like pigsties? Would you walk away from an unflushed toilet in your home or at your office? I think people just get gross in public areas. I always try to leave a public restroom better than when I came in, which usually means taking an extra paper towel and wiping up the area around the sink. It’s a small gesture but I think it helps and it makes me feel good.
Why are there always a few who need to unbuckle their seatbelts on the plane before the “fasten seatbelt” sign is turned off? Do you really feel constricted by that little belt? So much so that you couldn’t bear another 30 seconds of wearing it?
Why do people wear sunglasses indoors? Do they think they really look that cool? I think they look silly, not cool.
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.
During a recent run, I flashed back to an exchange I had with one of my tour guides in Scotland in April 2012. She had remarked on the size of my suitcase. It was a standard 28″ case that I usually bring on non-hiking vacations. I didn’t think my suitcase was inappropriate given that I was on a 15-day holiday so I said, a tad defensively, “I’m here for two weeks.”
To which she replied, “I rode my motorcycle all over the US for three months with just my saddlebags. When you get home, go to a BMW motorcycle dealership and they’ll teach you how to pack.” I politely smiled and nodded as I’m wont to do in situations where someone who doesn’t know me treats me with an air of smug superiority.
I smiled and nodded but inside, I was a bit irked. I know how to pack. I can go on a week-long business trip and just take a 19″ roll-aboard, which covers a different outfit each day, dinner outfits for each evening, and my running gear. And this woman, a complete stranger, was telling me that I didn’t know how to pack?
I flashed back to this interaction because I had just finished packing for a 7-day business trip and had too much room in my 22″ case so ended up squeezing everything into my 19″ case.
It’s all about choices.
Could I have used a smaller suitcase for my Scotland trip? Sure. But I didn’t want to spend my vacation washing my knickers and t-shirts in the sink each night. I didn’t want to have vacation pictures with me wearing the same pullover day after day. So I chose to bring a bigger bag so that I would have more time to make memories and so that those memories would be happy ones.
It’s all about choices.
The same goes for race preparation, race training plans, and race expectations. I had to switch gears last week to a different marathon training plan because the original plan I chose was simply too intense. The workouts and the paces were such that I dreaded my runs instead of looking forward to them. Dreaded them so much that I didn’t run at all during the first official week of training.
I knew that I needed to shift gears and find a plan that wouldn’t intimidate me. I needed to find a plan that would allow me to enjoy running again and not dread it. Or, in the simplest terms, I needed a plan that fit my inner slacker – one that had just enough structure but not too much structure. So I did some looking and dug up a very basic beginner just-finish-the-marathon plan. Luckily, it was one week shorter than the other plan so I wasn’t having to play catch up right out of the gate.
Since it’s a beginner plan, the build up is gradual and seems infinitely more manageable. And I know that if I follow it, I will be able to meet my goal of improving on last year’s marathon. Of course, I’m already tweaking the plan to fit my schedule and my life. But after just one week, I already notice the difference in my attitude about running. It’s no longer, “I have to run a 5-mile tempo run tomorrow.” Instead, it’s more like, “I can’t wait to see if I can push the pace a little bit during my 4 miles tomorrow.”
It’s all about choices.
Could I have gutted it out and stuck with the more intense training plan? Adjusted the paces down a little bit to be less intimidating? Sure. But that wouldn’t have addressed my attitude about running. So I chose to find a more realistic plan so that I can nurture my love of running with less potential to get injured and a higher likelihood of meeting my goal.
It’s all about choices. In packing, in planning, in running, and in life. Make your choices good choices.
Do you run with baggage? What thoughts wander around in your head while you’re running? Are they good thoughts? Brilliant ideas? To do list items?
When I run on the treadmill, even if I’m watching a movie or a television show, there are a lot of thoughts wandering around in my head. For me, running time is processing time. Time to think about whatever I saw, read, observed, encountered, worked on, etc. since my last run. Or time to zone out if things were stressful.
When I run outside, my mind usually isn’t on my surroundings because it’s processing, just like it does on my treadmill runs. Do I notice my surroundings? Sure, especially if I’m running in a new place. Do I notice the cars whizzing by? Of course, safety when running outdoors is important to me. Do I notice other runners, walkers, and bikers? Absolutely, we are sharing the same space, after all.
Do I acknowledge those runners, walkers, and bikers? If you read my post, To Cheer or Not to Cheer – There is No Question, you know what I like to acknowledge others. So when I’m running outside, I’ll usually greet other runners, walkers, and bikers with a hearty, “Good morning!” or a cheery, “Hello!” Sometimes I smile and nod. I don’t wave. I’m not a fan of waving. How do I decide whether to speak or just smile and nod? If they have their headphones on, I’ll smile and nod. If they are with a companion and they’re in the middle of a conversation, I won’t acknowledge unless one of them makes eye contact. If they are on the phone, I may smile and nod or I may speak. If I’m feeling grumpy, I may just nod.
I have a lot of guidelines to acknowledging others on the road, right? I don’t have hard and fast rules about acknowledging other. I like to do it. Do I always do it? No. Do others always return my gesture? Of course not. Do I care if they don’t? Absolutely not.
A Facebook running group recently discussed the topic of runners not returning acknowledgments. The majority of people who commented said that they were offended or annoyed or irked or bothered when people didn’t return their greetings. It’s rude, some said.
I disagree with them. I’m sure I’ve been on the other side of not reciprocating an acknowledgment because I’ve been lost in my thoughts. If I ignored an acknowledgment, it wasn’t intentional. It certainly wasn’t personal. It doesn’t mean that I hate the person. It doesn’t mean anything at all.
If my acknowledgment is not returned, I know that it’s not about me. I may think to myself, “Well, I tried.” Or, “They must be having a bad day.” If my mom is on my mind, I might tell myself, “Their mom must have told them not to talk to strangers.” If I’m huffing and puffing pretty hard, I sometimes think, “They must not have understood what I was saying.” I let the thought come and then just as quickly, I let it go.
I have too much other stuff going on in my head to stuff any more baggage in there that doesn’t need to be there. I have enough emotional baggage of my own that I don’t need to be worried about whether a complete stranger snubbed me. I’m a slow enough runner that I don’t need to be weighed down by additional baggage like that.
If you see me running outside and you speak to me or smile/wave/nod and I don’t respond, don’t take it personally. I don’t hate you. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not secretly plotting your demise. It’s possible that I didn’t hear you, especially if I’m listening to music. It’s possible that I didn’t see you because of the glare from the sun or because I blinked. It’s possible that I’m struggling to find a rhythm and just missed your friendly gesture. It’s most likely that I’m lost in thought and just wasn’t paying attention. I can guarantee you 100% that it’s not about you.
So don’t hold it against me. Because it’s highly probable that the next time you see me, you’ll get a cheery greeting and a big, goofy smile. And I hope you’ll return my friendly gesture. But if you don’t, I won’t hold it against you. And I won’t give it a second thought.
I’m not anti-New-Year’s-resolutions. I just don’t do them. For as long as I can remember, I’ve set goals for each calendar year and tracked my progress along the way. Things are no different this year.
For 2012, I identified 7 categories that are important to me and established 3 to 7 goals for each category. I know that I’ll be stretched as I try to attain my goals for the year. That’s usually what I have in mind when I go through my goal-setting exercise – things that take me out of my comfort zone, things that will make me a better person, things that will stimulate me.
As I was refining my goals, I learned about a new concept through a women’s leadership group on Facebook. The idea is that you pick one word and you use that word to guide you during the year. In her 2007 post, Christine Kane called it a Resolution Revolution. The WLI group’s #oneword2012 was gathered and turned into a Wordle.
My #oneword2012? Risk.
It’s a word that I’ve had in mind for many years because I’ve felt that as I’ve become older, I’ve become more cautious and content. It’s a word that I think of – along with “fearless” – whenever I watch young children learn new sports. Or 20-somethings who hop from job to job because they’re looking for something that their current job doesn’t give them. Or 40-somethings who leave a stable, satisfying job to pursue a lifelong passion. Somewhere between childhood and middle age we lose our appetite for risk. The risks we take become more cautious, more calculated, less…well, less risky.
So I chose “risk” for my #oneword2012 to remind me that the safe choice is not always the satisfying choice, that the pragmatic option is not always the passion-fulfilling option, that the expected decision is not necessarily the exceptional decision. As John A. Shedd wrote in 1928, “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” I hope that my #oneword2012 is a constant reminder throughout the year to push and stretch myself and to move out of my comfort zone.