This past Sunday was Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville. This is a great local race with a great kids race and post-race festival. It's a mostly downhill, fast race which is always fun!
I coached a group for this race and was super excited about how they would all do. After they did their warm up and got to the start line, I went over to an area where I could see them pass as they got started. When I made my way over to the spot, there was a man and woman also waiting for the start. We smiled and exchanged pleasantries.
That came to an abrupt end when the man leaned over to his wife and said, "The real runners will be at the front." Excuse me? The "real runners?" I could not let this slide and told him that everyone on that start line is a real runner. He sneered at me (yes, sneered) and turned to his wife and said again, "The real runners will be at the front." Okay.
I bit my tongue after that comment because it just wasn't worth getting into an argument with some strange man. But I was irked. This guy was in no shape to be passing judgment on anyone, especially a bunch of runners that were about to race a 10K in already 80 degree heat.
A little time passed and he asked me how many people were running the race. I told him there were over 3000 "real runners" running today. Yes, I know, perhaps it was a little jerky. But it was the truth. He then said, "Well, it looks to me that we're both standing here." Implying that we're certainly not real runners because we're not in front, but we're also not even the loser runners in the rest of the pack because we're not even running the race. I told him that I coached a group for this race and was there to support them. He sneered at me again and turned away.
Attitudes like that really bother me. I just firmly believe that anyone that laces up their running shoes is a real runner. You don't have to run fast to be a real runner, you just have to run. The last runner in a race still has to run the same distance as the winner. How quickly you cover that distance shouldn't determine your overall worth as a runner. And I think it's important to let people know that it's not all right to put down someone else because they don't run as fast as the lead runners. The average runner most likely works full-time, has a family, and other obligations. Yet they still find the time to pound the pavement. They do it for several reasons, but most importantly they do it because they love it. To me, that makes them a real runner.
(P.S. all my real runners kicked some you-know-what!)