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From Chopped Liver to Real Runner: It Can Happen to You Too

Posted Jul 31 2012 12:21pm

One Sunday, 5 years ago, I met my running buddy at Valley Forge National Park for a long run. It’s popular among us runners around here because it has a nice 5-mile, hilly, paved trail that winds around the woods and fields and cannons and soldier huts and other revolutionary stuff. Look it up if you are curious. Plus the park has bathrooms and water fountains, so it’s a good place to bang out some solid miles…that’s what real runners say. Bang out some solid miles, maybe run a negative split. Yep… serious runner lingo.

So anyhoo, like I said, this was about 5 years ago and I had been running for about 18 months and was training for my first marathon. So my running buddy and I are standing in the parking lot next to our cars, loading our fuel belts up with Gatorade and gel packs and junk, just shooting the breeze, when this guy gets out of the car next to us and starts chatting with us. Apparently, he hosts a running group there at the park a few times a week and he has organized a few races there at the park… yadda yadda yadda…ok, we get it. He is a “serious” runner too. He then asks if we are training for anything. Actually, he asks my running buddy if SHE is training for anything. He ignores me.

She replies, “We are both training for the Philadelphia Marathon.”

He says, “Oh I am volunteering at the 18-mile water stop. Maybe I will see you! Do you have a time goal?” Once again, he directs this to her only.

She replies, “I would like to qualify for Boston, but I have had an injury, so I will just see how I feel on race day.”

He says, eyeing her up and down, “Well, YOU really LOOK like a runner. I think you will do great. Just remember that at Mile 9 there is a big hill….blah blah blah…”  he continues talking to her while I stand there looking, apparently, like chopped liver. Obviously, I, with my little running fuel belt and my little Nike running shirt and my little Brooks running shorts and my little Asics running shoes and my little Brooks running visor, look like anything BUT a runner

Well, hey dude, you really LOOK like a douche bag. Guess that means you are one.

You know, that douche bag really bothered me that day (never met a douche bag that didn’t). I wanted to look like a runner, darn it, whatever that meant. I was putting in the miles and I was training for a marathon, for Pete’s sake, so I wanted to look the part of “Runner.” But I basically accepted from a douchey complete stranger that I didn’t look like a runner and it bothered me for some time.

Thankfully, over the years, that desire to “look like a runner” has diminished to the point where I rarely think about it, and certainly not while I am actually running. These days, I care more about trying to improve my speed and stamina as a runner than how I look, running or not. It’s true. I am not BSing you one bit. I don’t care what people think when they see me run (except for maybe if I go shirtless…still haven’t conquered that one yet), and I don’t care whether or not people think I look like a runner. I know I am a runner, and a good one at that, whether I look like one or not. I also know that when I run down the road, some people will think I look ridiculous. Some people will think I look athletic. And some people may even think I look like a douche bag. I can’t change that. People will think what they think no matter what, so why waste energy caring about it. I would rather spend my energy improving my running skillz so that if I EVER see that douche bag in a race, I will be able to blow past him and leave him in my dust thinking, “Did that nonrunner-looking person just beat me?”

Yes. Yes, I did.

PS: By the way, if you live in my neighborhood and see me completely wipe out superman style while running down the sidewalk, which is highly likely, you have my permission to laugh your ass off…because, let’s face it, that’s good stuff.

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