Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mollie Rant: Does running suck?

I understand, conceptually at least, that running is not for everyone. Not everyone needs to like what I like or do what I do, and there are plenty of other ways to get exercise, enjoyment, feel accomplished, etc.

But you know when you're in a group of non-runners, and the topic turns to running, and inevitably it devolves to variations on: "running sucks," "I think it's actually bad for you," "it's not enjoyable," and "it's just not for me"? These statements are said as facts, as if one (or however many) person's opinions on running define what running is.

So this is the point at which I write a blog post. Because you can say to me, "I don't enjoy running and I've never understood why some people do." (And then you can then ask me what it is that I like about running and we can have a great conversation.) But you can't say "running sucks" as if it's a fixed fact. I mean, I don't like mayonnaise, but that doesn't make it inherently bad. That just means that after trying it a number of times, I'm pretty sure I do not like it. BUT maybe someday some genius chef will present me with mayonnaise in a whole new way and I will say omg I had no idea! Turns out this is good and I want it on all my sandwiches!!! (Ok the mayonnaise metaphor got a little out of control. Sorry. Back to running.)

What I'm getting at here is that there is a difference between liking an activity and the inherent "goodness" of that activity. So my question is, why is it that, more than any other sport as far as I can tell, everyone has an opinion on running and thinks their opinion is fact?

I have thoughts. Obviously.

Despite its apparent ease (i.e. most people can put one foot in front of the other with a little bounce thrown in), running actually has an unexpectedly high barrier to entry. And people don't recognize this! So for example, I would not decide I want to be an ice skater, go to a rink five times over the course of one month, then frustrated by my inability to gracefully skate backwards and spin and jump a la Julia Lipnitskaia, loudly proclaim, "Ugh ice skating sucks! It's just not for me." Nor would I join a basketball team, go to practice a few times, and decide that basketball is harmful and unhealthy because my calves are sore from jumping and my feet hurt from changing direction. Everyone recognizes that learning a sport, skill (think music!), or anything really, requires sustained effort.

While running does not require much technique, necessary components of the activity itself should be approached like techniques (if that makes sense). I'm talking about mental things like developing consistency, dedication, and ability to push beyond comfort zones, and physical things like endurance, stretching and strength training routines, injury prevention tactics. And I am delighted to report that all these things can be learned! And anyone can learn them! So for those people who "want to like running but..." I say give it another shot. Try harder. Or try smarter. Talk to a coach, other runners, the internet, email me! Obviously I think running is great and I will be happy to tell you all kinds of reasons why. (Oh wait I already have here here here and here.)

And for those people who are not interested in running, that's cool too! I hope you find something you love that is rewarding and makes you feel mentally and physically awesome!

But don't tell me that running sucks.