Why do you run? Do you run strictly for recreation? For cardiovascular health? For fitness? To improve your performances? To fit into that strapless dress you bought last Tuesday? To win?
All of us may respond in different ways, but there’s a reason why we run. Most of us probably run for a variety of reasons. Regardless, there’s something that motivates us that doesn’t motivate the other 99% of the population.
For me personally, the motivation changes. Sometimes I run for the adventure of seeing new places, especially remote mountains.
Other times I run for fitness. I like to eat. I’m packing enough extra weight as it is… running helps me keep that in check.
I’d like to say I run for health, but ultras probably do more damage than benefit.
As of late, I’ve been motivated by competitiveness. Specifically, I’ve developed a strong desire to get better. That desire has led me to start doing longer tempo runs again. I haven’t done these workouts regularly since about 2008 when they were prescribed by the Crossfit Endurance plan I was following in preparation for the Burning River 100 miler.
How Others React to Your Motivation
Nonrunners tend to react to runners in one of two ways. They’re either amazed (I can’t believe you run that far!) or perturbed, which often seems to be a case of alleviating their own cognitive dissonance for not exercising (I’d run but I don’t want to destroy my knees before I’m forty!).
I don’t mind either reaction. If a nonrunner responds with the former response, I usually try to leverage that into a persuasive argument to turn them into a runner. If they respond with the latter response, I tend to either ignore the comment or respond with a snarky “And that eighty pounds of extra weight you’re carrying is good for your knees?”
Either way, nonrunners rarely cause me much concern.
Runners are a different story. We tend to have a bit of an in group-out group reaction to other runners and their motivation. We react positively to those that are motivated to run for the same reasons as us. We also tend to react negatively to those that are motivated for different reasons.
My own motivation shifts from time to time. For most of the winter, my competitive spirit took a back seat to adventure. I ran a few races and gave them a strong effort, but improvement wasn’t my first priority.
When I would meet new runners that were clearly focused on competitiveness, it was fairly obvious they didn’t consider me a “real” runner (for lack of a better term).
Likewise, when I started talking about wanting to improve to be more competitive, it was obvious I was alienating some runners that were decidedly non-competitive.
What’s going on here?
It’s perfectly natural to feel closer to those that share similarities and distance from those that exhibit differences. We surround ourselves with like-minded people. We crave similarity and avoid novelty… most of the time. It’s a fundamental element of the human condition.
Are runners, regardless of their motivation, really that different though? I would think our similarities would far outweigh our differences. Wouldn’t it make sense for all of us to just get along?
Okay, so how many of my readers are thinking “But wait, Jason regularly rants about the differences between road runners and trail runners, elites and non-elites, or triathletes and ultrarunners!”
Indeed, I make this logical error on a regular basis. Knowledge of the concept doesn’t necessarily insulate you from committing the same error.
So how can we learn to be less judgmental toward our fellow runners? And by “we“, I really mean “I.”
The trick is to pause before expressing our thoughts. The thoughts themselves, of liking those that are similar and disliking those that are different, are impossible to circumvent. We can’t control them.
We can control how the thoughts are expressed, though. By pausing before expressing, we give ourselves the opportunity to assess why we have those thoughts. We may be having those negative feelings because we’re envious. I’ll admit part of my dislike of triathletes stems from the fact that modding a bike with endless upgrades looks pretty damn fun! Recognitions like that may help us develop some empathy for those that are different.
Another solution is to put ourselves in their shoes. Attempt to see the world through their eyes. I’ve used this technique extensively in the barefoot running world by initiating conversations with shoe store owners, shoe designers, and people in the medical community. It helped my develop a much more balanced view of barefoot running. I just need to apply that same technique to more realms within the running world.
What do you think? Do you view others negatively because they have different goals or motivations?