I am not sure if I am positive about people trying to achieve something because I am a runner, or I am a runner because I am positive? Probably a question that I will never be able to answer. An incident on Sunday made me think about my positive outlook when I ended up at a BBQ surrounded by friends of my wife. One of the people there also goes to my local Parkrun, they joined a running club recently to do a couch to 5k course and after graduating kept the running up. Naturally I drift toward this young lady when at these gatherings as frankly, even though I make the right noises and act supportively I am not all that interested, however running, well that could never be boring could it?
We were talking about races she wished to enter, and what her future targets were, she aimed to run a half marathon at the end of next year. To be honest it is something I think she will easily be able to accomplish, she has done really well and is already booked to do a 10k before the end of the year. Her real problem I think is confidence. While we were chatting her partner/husband came over and hearing we were deeply engrossed in run chat turned to me and said ” Oh you should hear the names she calls you when she gets home every week.” I nodded with a bit of a fixed smile taking it for a poor joke, I don’t really know this bloke and didn’t think he was a ‘comedian’. Still there is no accounting for humour and I admit I like a bit of a comedy shit stir every now and again. The conversation continued and this chap sat there while we talked about how we gauge our parkrun progress by where we are lapped by individuals. I was quite flattered to learn that there was a particular spot on the run that if she got past before I lapped her she knew she was doing all right. I had never really thought of myself as one of the fast runners but this mutual admiration fest made me think that perhaps I was. Now when I spoke about overtaking her the partner pipes up again, “You should get extra points for running round her fat arse”. Well to be honest I just scooted round it and kind of half acknowledged in a slightly embarrassed way and continued talking but this bloke wouldn’t let it lie. “Yeah her arse is so fat it would take you twice as long.” I was beginning to see where the confidence issue might be coming from.
There are a lot of different people who run each week at parkrun, all shapes and sizes, speeds and ambitions, but one thing they all have in common is a desire to improve and get better. They are not afraid to work for that improvement either and they recognise that in themselves and in others. I have seen people beasted round Parkrun in attempts to get a new PB and there is sometimes a lot of shouting involved, but one thing I have never seen is anybody being particularly negative, and body image seems to be irrelevant if you are trying. In fact how can you have anything but respect for people who have so obviously made a major change in their life and braved all the insecurities and discomfort that it can involve. Those out there who take delight in chipping away at another person’s confidence by taking the piss out of them, however well natured it is supposed to be I don’t think will ever quite feel comfortable at the mutual admiration society that is Parkrun.
One of the things that was joked about by a marathon veteran when I first expressed an interest in running a marathon was that she could see another running divorce on the horizon. The implication being that as one got more involved in the whole running world the less one was likely to be able to keep a marriage together. Now I don’t think this is necessarily true but in looking at this exchange between these two I can see the possibility of a split. On the one hand you have somebody who is making a big change in their life to improve themselves both physically and mentally. You have to be tough in both respects to get past that first initial rush and let regular training become second nature. On the other you have somebody who seems to
take delight in knocking people down for trying to change by picking at obvious insecurities. As you grow to know more runners who are encouraging and supportive how can you help but make a comparison between the positive world you now inhabit and the Chinese water torture of small but hurtful negative digs. If you ever feel that the time has come where you have to make a choice which would you choose? I know what I would pick!