Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bane of a Non-Marathon Runner

It seems that every time I meet someone who is not a fellow runner, and they found out that I am, I am inevitably faced with the same question eagerly spouted from them: "Do you run marathons?"

Although I generally anticipate the question (just as I've accepted there are still people out there who find it hilarious to shout out 'run, Forrest, run' despite the fact that line is so outdated and obnoxious) I still feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle and a wave of annoyance comes over me as I reply, "No." Their faces instantly drop into a look of first disappointment and then something akin to pity. I can almost hear what they are thinking, "Oh, the poor dear thinks she's a runner." But what comes out of their mouths once they get over their initial disappointment is something more like, "Well, maybe one day." At that point, I do my best to politely edge away, as not only am I annoyed, and have stopped from even trying to explain that just because I haven't run a marathon doesn't instantly disqualify me as being a runner, as they never quite understand despite enthusiastically nodding their heads in agreement. No, no matter what I say at that point, they will never be convinced of my runner status.

As this happened yet again on my run the other day, as I'm doing my usual thing and passing an elderly couple walking the opposite direction, she shouts out in a thin old woman voice, "Are you training for a marathon?" I quickly replied no and kept on going, but I saw both her and her husbands do the usual drop and they looked at me almost with pity. It doesn't matter that I still run every day, or how many intervals I pound out a week, or whatever my weekly mileage total happens to be; to them, because I don't have my sights set on that magical 26.2 miles, I'm just some impostor.

I understand that the marathon is an a great event, and I do hope to do one one day, (but not in the imminent future) it seems because it has been picked out by the likes of Oprah, Katie Holmes, and a plethora of other celebs who cite themselves as having 'been there, done that' the event has taken on a more of a status symbol. The attitude that people who have done them, regardless of their finishing time, are vastly superior than any jolly jogger who hasn't. I heard a few coworkers one time congratulating one of the girls who had finished her marathon in about 4:10 (which was awesome for her, no discredit!) and subsequently relishing her with accolades, presents, and the like. Now, on the same day, a different woman who frequented the gym I was working at usually everyday, if not twice, had earned a bronze medal from the World Championships in the 10k. However, she was given not even the littlest congrats from any of the others, because it was after all, only 6 miles, not the 26.2 the other girl had done. In their minds, anything compared to finishing a marathon was second rate.

It seems that in the culture outside of the running community, if you're not a marathon runner, you're no runner at all, and that is a tad annoying. They have no concept of the speed vs. distance relation. The 5 hour marathon finished would rank above the sub 4 min. miler simply because a mile is so short and anyone can run four laps around a track? Well, I know it's petty, but I still find it ridiculous that I feel the need to have to explain myself to those people. I fight back the urge to rattle off the fact that, no I'm not training for Boston, but I'm hoping to run such and such for the 10k or 5k; I'm not running a marathon but I just finished such and such track workout, and I've hit X number of miles this week, okay!

Alas, they will never understand. Yet, thankfully among the 'true' runners, we don't look down our noses at those racing the 5's and 10's and appreciate the PR's that come there. We know that attaining competitive times in those events (and others) takes just as much work and dedication as the marathon, but in different ways. And even if you're not training for a certain event per se, but just running for the fun of it, who can still be a member! So, the next time I get that inevitable question, I'll let my irritation rise, but I'll keep it mute and simply hold my head high and proudly state, "NO!"



  1. I know just what you mean. My wife runs marathons, so I'm always getting asked.
    I just tell everyone that the reason I run is so I can eat pies and drink lots of wine without getting fat - and not because I'm enjoying it.

  2. haha...i'm glad u can relate! i use that excuse too, although i cite my penchant for ben and jerry's phish food ice cream as my main reason :)