#1 THOU SHALL NOT JUDGE ANOTHER RUNNER
I am guilty of this, at least I was in my early days of running.
It wasn’t so much an issue when I very first started, I was too busy concentrating on not throwing up 500 metres in to a run to worry about anyone else. But after persisting for a few months I was at the stage of regularly running 5-6 miles and it was then that I developed an awful habit.
Other runners I encountered would fall in to two distinct brackets; those better than me and those worse. I’d base this discrimination on nothing more than what I saw when they ran.
A runner might flash past me, all long strides and high heels, head up and not a bead of sweat. These runners were better than me, and I hated them for it. They were the smug b*stards who could run, probably had always been able to run and would always be a better runner than me. I’m sure they looked at me and thought…well…thought what I did about the runners worse than me.
The plodders, the run/walkers, those who’s gait looked like you were watching a zombie movie on fast forward…I looked at them and thought “ha, I am better than you”. I had already forgotten those early days bent double in alleyways desperately trying to hold on to my lunch after 3 minutes of exercise. All I saw was worse runners than me and I took comfort from being better than someone.
This terrible segregation continued right up until I started marathon training, and then I learnt a valuable lesson.
I’d returned from a long run, I think it was my first time beyond half marathon distance, and it had been hard. The last 2-3 miles had been laborious, relentlessly shuffling in the direction of my front door, my shower and my sofa. I’d run a fabulous first 10 or 11 miles, too fabulous in fact, and now the final hill before home had broken me.
I was aware of the beep, I heard it and just assumed (as I always do) that it was for me and acknowledged it with a wave of the hand, without expending the unnecessary energy to lift my head and see who had spotted me. My sole focus was on putting one foot in front of the other until I no longer had to, no distractions allowed.
A few hours later I logged on to Facebook to find the following post on my wall: “Hey Forrest Gump, how was your run? Didn’t expect to see you going so slow, I thought you were quite good at that jogging stuff! I’ve seen more enthusiastic waves in my sink! Anyway, good on you getting out there, keep going and it will get easier one day I’m sure.”
How dare they. How very dare they judge me. How very bloody dare they judge me on the last mile of 14 without knowing what I’d been through to get there.
And that was the day I realised that judging a runner is criminal. You never know whether they are in the first mile of three or the last mile of twenty. You can’t assess in seconds whether someone is carrying an injury, returning from injury, avoiding an injury. It is nigh on impossible to deduce whether your fellow pavement pounder has been running for millennia or for minutes, whether they are a seasoned pro or nervous newcomer.
Since that day I have made only one judgement when faced with a fellow runner. I judge them all to be awesome and far superior to anyone who is sat at home on the sofa .