Recently someone called attention to a rather snide article in the Wall Street Journal opinion section called “OK, You’re a runner. Get over it.” The article, by Chad Stafko, ditches on 13.1 and 26.2 bumper stickers, on wearing race t-shirts in public, and jokes (I hope it’s a joke) that the only reason someone would “get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape” is because “there is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running” and in this age of social media, we crave attention and want to be seen. Umm, right… because all the people I know are up at 5 a.m. looking out their windows to see if the person running by in reflective gear is someone they know, so they can then applaud them for it later.
Maybe we get up and do it because exercising makes us feel good, reduces our risk of heart attack and disease, gives us the pleasure of working towards goals and achieving them, and is an amazing way to get outside in the fresh air year round.
Maybe we enjoy advertising our distances because we like connecting to other runners, and inspiring people to start running because they look at us and realize how many normal people are doing it and how accessible it is.
Maybe we wish we lived in a country where more people were healthy and active, so we didn’t have to worry about friends, neighbors and relatives who are at higher risk for heart disease, type two diabetes, and stroke, and who aren’t living the same quality of life because they don’t exercise regularly. Maybe every bumper sticker is an advertisement for a better way of living, not just a way to stroke our own egos by advertising our accomplishments. Dear cars on the road, I see your Tony’s Donuts bumper sticker and I raise you one 13.1 bumper sticker.
In a world filled with advertising, we are advertising something healthy… something positive… something free. And I guess, to Chad Stafko, something offensive.
In his defense, this guy is a journalist. His job is to write entertaining, edgy articles that people want to read. Perhaps in his world, snarky and controversial = funny, and offensive = viral. It takes extra creativity to be funny without being negative, and it’s a lot easier to harp on some runners for advertising their joy of running than it is to take on big businesses for things that are actually harmful. Maybe he was having a lazy day, or maybe it really bugs him that so many people are happy to be exercising. His tone when writing about the rise in the popularity of running certainly made it sound like lots of runners isn’t a good thing.
I write a whole blog about running. I have some good guesses as to what Chad Stafko would say about THAT. But for every Chad Stafko, I’ve got people writing me e-mails and comments thanking me for helping them stay motivated to keep running, because they love the change it’s made in their lives. There it is, right there – the positive impact of being public and talking about running is real. The negative impact of irritating someone who thinks you’re an egomaniac for displaying your interest in running? Let me just say, it’s probably not their biggest problem.
I suspect anyone annoyed by the sight of my 13.1 sticker or someone in a coffee shop wearing their race t-shirt is probably unsatisfied with their own life or level of fitness, and should do something about it. Does it bother me when I see someone in a zumba t-shirt or with an ironman bumper sticker? Um, no. Not at all. It might even give me something to talk to them about in line at the grocery store. I found something active that I love to do, and I’m doing it. I would be ecstatic to learn that you’ve done the same.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I like seeing people posting selfies of themselves at the gym, or doing something awesome. I stay on Facebook so I can see my friends’ photos and updates, and nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends doing things they’re proud of and happy about. Please – tell me you’ve taken up kayaking, lost some weight, joined a gym, started eating healthier, or won first place with your bowling league. I LOVE IT. If you have photos, that’s even better.
I’m irritated by this article because when I think about the impact, I don’t see any positive outcomes. Someone who dislikes seeing people’s bumper stickers about their race distances is going to feel validated in their own inactivity, or their inability to be pleased about the accomplishments of others. Someone who motivated themselves to get off the couch and get active in part because they were excited to earn themselves a specific shirt or car magnet now feels embarrassed that they’re proud of themselves for doing something difficult to improve their health and their lives. That’s a lot more lame than a run-brag, if you ask me.
If you’ve found something that you love, that brings you joy, that’s healthy and harmless, I hope you do advertise it. Get people thinking about it, show that it’s an interest of yours and answer questions if a beginner approaches you. Get yourself a t-shirt proclaiming that you knit, or you’re a tennis freak, or you think rock climbers are some of the most awesome people ever.
Seeing evidence of your successes, your accomplishments, and your passions makes me happy, because I want that for everyone. And the more of us who show we’ve found it, whatever IT is, the more people around us will be inspired to find something of their own that makes them happy enough to wear a t-shirt with it emblazoned across their chests.
Go ahead, Chad Stafko, buy that 0.0 bumper sticker you have your eye on. It shows what makes you happy.
Anyone have some bragging they’d like to do? Because if you do, I’m happy for you, and I’d really like to hear it.