In the running world, there seems to be two polar opposites. One group is hyper-competitive. The other group has a good time. The fast runners scoff at the idea that running is a recreational activity. The fun runners shun any hint of competitiveness. It would seem there’s not a lot of middle ground.
In reality, the vast majority of runners fall somewhere between those groups. We try to do our best and take steps to maximize our potential given the time we have available, but we also like to cut loose and have fun. Unfortunately this group is a silent majority shunned by the others.
The fast runners deride our lackadaisical attitude toward training. They cannot understand why we would enter a race we have no hope of winning. They ridicule our decision to occasionally skip training runs or place a higher priority on things like family or other hobbies.
The fun runners can be just as judgmental. They don’t understand why we’d try to run fast in a race to beat a PR. They discredit our desire to get faster or train hard. They don’t understand the competitive fire that burns within us.
This “middle ground” embodies the implicit philosophy of my group of running friends, the Hobby Joggas. None of us are elites, though some are very close. Most of us are mid-to-back-of-the-packers. We do things like drinking the night before races, stop to take pictures during a race, and lose a few seconds to chat with aid station volunteers. At the same time, we’re acutely aware of our race times and will bust our ass to reach our potential. It’s a weird internal balance that each of us finds. It’s personal.
Perhaps that’s why we don’t discuss it. Since the goals are so intimate, others wouldn’t or couldn’t understand. Instead, we try to fit in with one of the more polarized groups. We hide who we are to assuage a group to avoid being judged by those that don’t understand the balance we’ve struck.
I’m happy to admit I could be a better runner if I were a little more dedicated. I like hanging out with friends and putting back a few beers the night before a race. I’m also happy to admit I sometimes obsess about some of my finishing times. I’ve even run races harder to beat a particular person. If others don’t understand my motives or question my decisions- tough shit. I maximize the enjoyment I get for the amount of effort I give to this sport. It works for me.
What about you guys? If you’re in the silent majority, how do you deal with the pressure from the polar groups? What is your particular balance?