“Get Over It” – Runners are Good People

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When she wasn’t running in an event, she was a volunteer wherever she might be needed. I still recall her encouragement, a year or so later, as she handed me some water around mile nine of a very hot, half marathon at a time I was struggling terribly. She exemplified what I was observing in my new running community—a selfless passion to help others and support their efforts to achieve a goal. To me, Kathy was a runner.  (excerpt from The Race Before Us)

AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. STAFKO –

Many years ago I had a hearing in a Los Angeles federal court.  To say the least, the judge did not like my argument.  She thought either I was incompetent (that I didn’t understand some basic principles of federalism and bankruptcy law) or my position bordered on the frivolous (that I was trying to achieve something for a client that had not a scintilla of support in the law).   In case i didn’t express it well yet, the judge was unreserved in her criticism of both me and my arguments. For some reason I cannot recall right now (psychiatrists have a word or two for our ability to shut out traumatic events in our life), the judge ordered me to return the 3000 miles the following week to appear again before her highness (I mean, her honor) as if I had not already had about as much quality time with her as my ego could handle.  Having been shaken and stirred I left the courtroom with my law partner, who clearly was afraid to utter the first word (worried that at any moment I’d come unglued), but he had this look on his face that clearly and wordlessly said – what did you do to get that judge so mad?  Figuring that if I let it bother me too much it would ruin our afternoon golf plans, I finally, somewhat pensively, spoke:  “I really do not think I ever dated that woman.”

That story (which actually is true) came to mind this morning when I read Chad Stafko’s article in the Wall Street Journal – “OK. You’re a Runner. Get Over It.”  The story (admittedly, it describes itself  as an “opinion” piece) ruminates about why runners run, rather quickly concluding that we are all a bunch of egomaniacs – because why else would you put a “13.1” decal on your car window, why else do we run where others can see us, and why else would you wear T-Shirts that say “Monument Ave 10K” or “Richmond Runs”.  Heres an excerpt from Mr. Stafko’s article:

Like the 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers, this apparel serves a clear purpose: We can look at them and immediately know that the person wearing it is a runner—perhaps even an accomplished one.

 People want attention and crave appreciation. If you’re actually doing something like running—covering ground, staying healthy, almost even having fun—what better way to fulfill the look-at-me desire? The lone runner is a one-person parade. Yay.

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Now I may be an ego maniac, but there is a no more generous population group than runners.  Generous in spirit, but also generous in material giving.  I wrote about this in my own journey of learning to run:

In a recent Chicago Marathon, for example, more than 9,500 charity runners raised money for more than 150 charities. Contributions were expected to exceed $10 million in just that one event. This phenomenon extends beyond the United States. According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the 2010 CIBC Run for the Cure raised $33 million. (excerpt from The Race Before Us)

The fact is that almost very 5K, 10K, and longer race in this country (and going worldwide) is affiliated with one or more charities that raise enormous sums of money for great causes.  Running USA, the very same organization he used to discredit running, estimates that in 2012 U.S. road races raised over $1.2 billion for charity. 

I tried hard to figure out if the writer was actually a runner himself and the article was intended as satire, but I concluded not.  (Or maybe us runners seeking attention are too self-absorbed to appreciate the subtlety of clever writing, such as satire.) I really could not figure out why one would write a piece like that, and even further, why the WSJ would publish it.  (I’ve referred now twice to the Wall Street Journal.  I guess it’s just a little unavoidable preening.)

So why did Chad Stafko, write “OK. You’re a Runner. Get over it.”?  I have two theories – writers block with a looming publication deadline (he had to write something) or his girlfriend left him right after she completed the Chicago marathon. Both explanations seem plausible, but I have my guess — so, I’m sorry, but “get over it.”  You see, the runners and the training team coaches I know celebrate good health, personal challenge, and friendship, but most of all they care far more  about getting a newbie runner to participate and a novice runner across the finish line of their first 10K, both of whom  may dream about 13.1 or even 26.2, but not for window decals; rather they are but a few steps away from a life changing journey.

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One more thing, Mr. Stafko, when I went back to that court to see that judge in Los Angeles, she admitted she had been a bit hasty in dismissing me and my arguments, and she apologized.  My conclusion – the judge was a runner. So, you should know that all the runners I know have already forgiven you.  (Please send me your address and I will send you a copy of my book – it will be on me.)

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