I started running three years ago. Fortunately for me, the sweet lady who coached me through the "Couch to 5k program" was very patient and encouraging, and my first race experience was a positive one. Unfortunately, not everyone's experience brings them joy.
I've been in a Twitter discussion with some fellow RunKeeper App users. The question was asked "What do you think would make people hate running?" Overwhelmingly, the top answer was "PE teachers in school." Last year, I did another post on that very subject. I'll not belabor the point; you can read the post here. However, in my experience with running, running clubs, participating in races, and talking to others have shown a rather disturbing trend.
If you want your friends to learn to love running, get together with you at a local 5k, or join your fabulous running group DON'T do these 13 things:
- Don't equate running with punishment. Just because Coach DA used running as punishment doesn't mean we have to keep doing that to ourselves. Running isn't easy, but it can be fun.
- Don't make running a mutually exclusive elitist sport. NEWSFLASH! Every runner is NOT a string bean with 6% body fat who eats nothing but kale and sadness. Did you know the definition of a runner? Any person who runs! Size, color, age, gender, speed...none of those things matter in the definition. Things like cropping larger runners out of photos and making the running categories for large runners start at 5lbs heaver than the fastest runner you know doesn't really encourage someone with a few extra groceries on them to feel welcome. No, I'm not talking about coddling, just a little common sense and common courtesy.
- Don't start out doing too much too fast, or trying to push someone to do the same. You are NOT Jillian Michaels, so cut it out!
- Don't declare "all paces welcome" at a gathering when they aren't.
- Don't bring dogs to a race/group run. The only exception is a harnessed LEGITIMATE service dog. Look, I like dogs, however, everyone doesn't. In fact, some people have a great fear of dogs. Also, NOBODY wants to be bitten, lunged at, growled at, or have to encounter a hot steaming pile of poo that you didn't clean up.
- Do not apologize for slower runners. Yes, this actually happened at a race last year. I was in the back with a 66 year old woman who said she was attempting her very first 5k race. We were in the home stretch when we heard the PA Announcer say, "We apologize for the delay in starting [our kids race]...It's a little bit of a good thing/bad thing to have so many people here..." The lady said, "maybe I should quit and get out of the way so they can get started.". Her friend and I talked her out of it. Hey, she paid her money like everyone else and deserves the same treatment as someone who finished in less than 20 minutes. Plus, it wasn't like she was taking 90 minutes to finish a 5k; she finished in a little over an hour. At a race this year, I had a sweeper keep apologizing to the people helping with the race because they had to wait on me to finish (I was last). That is NOT helping.
- Do not apologize for being a slower runner. There are two instances when you shouldn't apologize for being slow; one, when you are slow, and two, when you are not slow. Apologizing when you are slow is an insult to yourself. Apologizing when you are not slow is an insult to everyone else. Besides, what is slow anyway? For me, slow is finishing a 5k race in over an hour. For others, slow is not finishing one within 30 minutes. No, I'm not going to throw out worn out cliché's like "slow and steady wins the race." It sounds like sage advice, when in reality, it's a load of bull.
- Do not take up water stops before everyone goes through. had it happen at gatherings and races. It's not cool, plus, as the weather heats up, it is also dangerous.
- Do not make snarky comments about other runners. I have to watch myself on this one. Usually, I have to stop myself from making snarky comments about others who make nasty comments about their fellow runners. Dr. Phillip C. McGraw once said, "My dad had taught me there are times in life when you just don't want to miss a good chance to shut up." He's right.
- Do not take up time cards and start award ceremonies before everyone finishes a race. I can tell when an award ceremony at a race is going to get screwed up when they do this.
- Do not make running too difficult or techie. Now, I admit to being a number nerd when it comes to running/walking. I've got my Runkeeper app on my phone, my Garmin GPS watch (when Runkeeper is on the fritz), my Fitbit and my stopwatch when GPS doesn't work, and my lap counter when I'm using a track. I'm well aware that everyone doesn't need or want all that and they don't care about mileage and time. They just want to run and enjoy. Give them the space to do that.
- Don't lie; Do encourage. There is a difference...and we know it.
- Don't make everything a competition. Bro, it's a fun run, not the Boston Marathon.