I love running magazines. Every once in a while I see something in one that makes me wonder. That was the case when I picked up a recent copy and read a letter about a reader’s exchange with another runner. The letter writer had gone to a race that had both a half marathon and a 5k. Another runner asked her if she was doing the half and she told her no, that she was running the 5k. The snide response she received was, “well, at least you’re running.” The magazine stood up for the 5k’er, making the argument that one can truly race a 5k as well as run an “easy” marathon.
The problem is that’s not the only time I’ve seen runners downplay the efforts of others. In the comments section of a popular running gear source’s status on Facebook, runners were asked to list their pet peeves. Most of the pet peeves were legit – aggravation with others who go slow and won’t allow a runner to pass, walkers and slow runners that toe the start line when they should start further back and closer to their own pace group. But two of the pet peeves which were listed repeatedly seemed to me to just be rather, for lack of a better word, snitty.
The first one was wearing a race shirt on race day, before you’ve run the race. Yes, some runners are superstitious and feel like if you haven’t “earned” it, you shouldn’t wear it. Ok, well if you feel that way, don’t . . . but don’t make rude comments about spotting the newbies and pointing out those who chose to wear their shirts. Here’s a little revelation . . . not everyone has lots of running gear to choose from. It may be that the technical shirt they just received is better than what they wore to run in. And guess what else? Not everyone that gets one of those shirts has even run the race. I’ve got a lot of running shirts that I “earned” by volunteering to work the race. At almost all the races I work, I’m offered a shirt as a matter of fact and so are the rest of the volunteers. Should we never wear those shirts because we didn’t run the race? You know what? If it weren’t for all those volunteers, there wouldn’t be much of a race. I volunteer about half of the weekends in the year. I only get to run a few races a year because of that. Do I wear those shirts I got for volunteering while I’m training? You bet. I am a working mom. I don’t have the cash to outlay on scads of running gear. There are a lot of runners out there who may not have that kind of money either. Don’t gripe because they wear their shirt on race day. They’re happy to be there and excited for the race they are about to run, don’t spoil it for them.
The second “snitty” pet peeve mentioned was seeing shorter distance runners with fuel belts/hydration belts. Honestly? Why do people care what gear other people see to outfit themselves with? That is so petty. I have asthma. If you have ever used an inhaler, you know that it can leave a nasty tasting, gummy feeling in your mouth. If you need to use an inhaler, you don’t have time to wait until the next water stop. During my training runs I wear a hydration belt. It does not matter if I’m going long or short. Sometimes I leave the house not knowing where or how far I’m going, I just take it by feel. During a 5k, I stick a small water bottle in my sports bra. I don’t care what people think about this. I have water should I need it. And I can tell you it is pretty amusing when some of my fellow runners look at me like they wish they’d brought some water too. Again, don’t worry about what other runners are wearing --worry about what gear you are wearing. The right gear can make a huge difference in your running experience. If a hydration belt makes it easier for a shorter distance runner, why should you let it bother you?
If you’re a runner, it is my opinion that you should try to avoid coming off as snide, petty or “snitty.” All you’re managing to do by having a bad attitude is setting a bad example for other runners and discouraging newer runners. Those newer runners may someday be the next batch of ultra-marathoners. Our sport is full of wonderful people, people who go out of their way to help others. Don’t be the bad apple of the bunch by having an elitist attitude.