Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Self-Indulgent Thugs

Did anyone see the article in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “Who Quits Before Race Day?”  In my humblest of opinions, it actually doesn’t say a whole lot. Basically, lots of people over-train for marathons, get injured and never make it to the start line – “Of the 60,000 runners who registered for the New York marathon several months ago, about 45,000 will show up for the start.

Apparently, for some runners, fear of under-training actually leads to over-training. One more example of how we runners can be quite the bunch of overachievers. Several injured people were quoted in the article, most of them voicing disappointment at training for so many months and not being able to run the race.

I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there too. It sucks the big one. One more race shirt you can’t  wear, one more day of the year when you wake up and cry in your Starbucks because you are supposed to be racing and are instead watching re-runs of America’s Funniest Home Videos (which is always on, by the way. No one ever gets tired of swift blow to the crotch) .

Just for the record, I’m sure it breaks some law in some country (Sri Lanka?) to wear a shirt for race you never ran. I give them to my kids.

What struck me the most about this article was not the content, but the comments that followed, like this one:

“I have zero sympathy for the "sense of loss". Life is full of *real* stuff to mourn: people losing jobs, spouses, children, and the actual ability to walk or run. Training and then not being able to run is a bummer but it falls into the category of not being able to indulge in that weekend away. Anything longer than a few days of self-pity indicates a serious lack of perspective. Learning to count your blessings in a far less than tragedy situation like this is how resilience is built for when life *really* slaps you upside the head.”

Are we runners really such a group of whiney, self indulgent thugs who have completely lost perspective?

Yes, I have been guilty of getting caught up in running and having a one-track mind. Yet, just because I love to run and grieve the loss of not being able to a race or train does not mean I don’t “get” that there are worse tragedies in life. Give me a break. At the end of the day I know that running is not everything. But, it does make me happy so I miss it when I can’t do it. Like anything, when you want it and can’t have it, it hurts.

SUAR

PS: Stayed tuned later this week as I talk to would-be marathoner and gold medalist, Apolo Anton Ohno, who will be running New York on Sunday. I bet he is not whiney.

65 comments:

  1. I want to SMACK the person who would leave that kind of comment. I was supposed to run the Marine Corps Marathon this past weekend in remembrance of my brother who was killed in Afghanistan.

    The reason I didn't make it? I didn't want to put my body through the stresses of running 26.2 miles while 12 weeks pregnant.

    Yes, it was a painful decision. I felt as though I was letting my brother down. My training was followed to a "T", I went uninjured and every training run he was in my mind. Training for the marathon I never ran gave me a sense of closure and healing, and while I may never heal, I did have a couple of days of feeling the "loss" of the marathon.

    Yes, I am thrilled to be pregnant. To miss this marathon, though - it stings a little. But I would never forgive myself if I ran this and something horrible happened afterwards.

    Some people need to think before they speak. You really don't know everyone's life story... You work, you train, you grit your teeth anywhere from 16-24 weeks for your marathon. If you don't feel a sense of SOMETHING if you miss it, I'd be worried.

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  2. mickiruns: well put. And I'm very sorry you couldn't do the race. I know that must have been incredibly difficult.

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  3. I guess I'm one of the few at the opposite end of the bell curve: I'm notorious for *not* running, at all, for the week prior to the race.

    I finally learned that I'm not going to increase my speed, strength, or endurance in that final week, and I'd rather catch up on sleep, good eating habits, and avoid a stupid last-minute injury just before the gun.

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  4. I think you can replace "running" with anything that's important to you. So, whatever your goal is and you suddenly are unable to perform/meet the goal, of course you're disappointed.

    And when your activity is so important to you and becomes part of your identity, why wouldn't you be devastated when you can't do what you set out to do?

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  5. Hey mickiruns - so sorry u couldn't run MCM this weekend - I know it's not the same, but I'd love to dedicate my MCM run to your brother's memory - it was my second MCM (and a tough one since I came down with a nasty cold the day before), but I would have missed running for our troops and fallen heroes, too - u did what was best for taking care of that little one and I'm sure your brother is proud of you - blessings to u and your family - and a big Oo-Rah to your brother

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  6. against the law to wear a shirt from a race you didn't run?! Say it ain't so! ;-) I will wear one, but if anyone asks, i will let them know i didn't run it. Even won a marathon shirt and hat offa one of these here blogs and that's a distance i plan to NEVER run. I feel guilty enough to never wear them to a race around, you know, the serious runners who might believe i ran it, however. Otherwise..I paid for the shirt; I'm wearing it! =)

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  7. K- When we were in Boston this past summer I got a Boston Marathon shirt, didn't think it was a big deal. So I wore it for the first time to the grocery store and someone congratulated me on running it!! I was so embarrassed and didn't think for a minute that would happen when I bought it. I told him thanks but I didn't run it I have only worn it one other time since.

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  8. My dad sent me this article this morning as I have been dealing with a new injury over the past week (that I didn't have at all duing the 15 weeks of training before and it came sort of out of nowhere...) and I might not be able to start my first marathon in a week and a half. I have been getting chiro adjustments, e-stem, and ultrasound, and not running at all (it hurts my back/butt/hip just to walk). There is so much to think about when making this decision...If I do start, will I even be able to finish? Am I going to injure myself even more by pushing through? (I believe you refer to this as a DASA). I also don't want to use my injury as an excuse not to run...because I am already scared enough about it! And then there is always the disappointment of telling people you didn't start and of course the letdown that you're not putting the past 4+ months of training to the test. The article (and your post) helped me to know that IT HAPPENS. There will always be more marathons to run. We are only human. And yes...there are bigger things to worry about, but it sure does suck when you have the will and desire to do something but the body just won't perform.

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  9. There is always a tragedy somewhere greater than your own. Doesn't mean you can't be sad sometimes.

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  10. Like anything in life, I think it's okay to be whiney and self-indulgent sometimes when things don't go our way - a sports team loses, we get caught in a traffic jam, the laundry machine stops working, ETC. Yeah there are bigger problems in the world, but mourning our own losses - however trivial - doesn't necessarily mean we don't recognize those too.

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  11. It's like parenting. Those who aren't parents really don't get it. Those who are not runners really don't get it either. However - both non-parents and non-runners assume they know enough to give an opinion on the topic about which they actually know very little.

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  12. Ducking :) cause I pretty much agree with the comment. I ran this past weekend at the MCM - my calves cramped horribly after 18 - all hope of a decent time flew away and I cried as I stretched my legs and watched the minutes tick. But, I looked over and saw a man running in memory of his son, killed in action and all self-pity went away. I decided to be grateful for my ability to limp my way to the finish, feel the joy of running/walking on a beautiful afternoon.

    There will be other races, it just wasn't my day. Big deal.

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  13. I think the guy who left that comment on the WSJ article doesn't quite getting running (or being active on a regular basis) and what it does for so many people.

    For many, running is the thing that helps them cope with the "real stuff" as he put it. When one of the few things that helps you deal with losing your job, spouse, child, or coming back from a life altering injury, is taken away I would hope you mourn it. If that was your support, your pick me up, and now its gone, why wouldn't you feel a sense of loss?

    One of the big things that I see with athletics and being active, that I think he missed as well, is what is life without it? Yes, we would go on, life would continue, but it wouldn't be as fun! Why live life and not have a good time? If all you did was go through the same boring routine, interrupted by the occasional "real slaps upside your head" what's the point? Live life to the fullest is my philosophy.

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  14. I think I have perspective. I understand what that person is trying to communicate. But everyone's disappointment and loss is their own. Not really fair to compare from the outside. We all feel it in our own way. Hope that makes sense.

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  15. You know I'd agree with you. I hate it when people do that! DUH obviously we get that not being able to run is not the end of the world. But it is such a huge part of our lives so when we are done it HURTS! Anyone who says other wise doesn't run so they can't understand.

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  16. I *sort of* get what the person is trying to say
    BUT
    By that logic, at what point is a disappointment "big enough" to count? What about blowing a tire and missing your best friend's wedding? (At least you have a car!) What about starting a business, busting your butt at it for a year, and then having it fail? (At least you're not starving!) What about mourning the death of a loved one? (We all die eventually!)

    The whole "white whine" thing has me thinking about this quite a bit lately -- I think there's a good point to be had about counting our blessings, but I also think there's a risk of going to far and not having any empathy left for people who are grieving a loss.

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  17. First off, that persons comments were uncalled for and possibly out of line, but that doesn't mean the spirit of what they meant doesn't have merit. As someone who lost a parent way to early I have experienced a *real* world tragedy and in no way shape or form does missing a race compare to something like that. In fact I'm going to miss a race this weekend because I was volunteered (by my lovely wife) to help some friends move. Yeah I'm bummed out about it and I'll probably be a bit grumpy while I'm moving furniture instead of ticking off miles, but I'll get over it. Its been 8 years since I lost my mom and not a day goes by that I don't miss her and regret not spending more time with her before she passed. That comment is accurate, those 2 "losses" don't even compare to each other but its just like the poster said about parenting, those who don't know should really keep their mouth shut and their opinions to themselves until they have the same experience to back up their words.

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  18. It's ironic that you blogged about this today. I just e-mailed the race director of the half-marathon that I registered and partially trained for coming up on November 12th, and asked if I could transfer my bib. I started a new job, have been busier and more stressed than I ever have in my life and got really sick. I feel like my lack of training would make it so hard to complete this race.

    Right now, I feel like a failure, but I know that I have to take care of myself first. At this point that means backing out of this race. Will I regret it on race day? Yes, but I will get over it and race another day, thankful that I can make the choice to race or not.

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  19. Wow. This is one I have struggled with over and over during my injury. I have two close family member with terminal cancer, and yet I am upset that I can't run. The guilt that goes with that truth is big. And yet when I saw the sports shrink about this, he let me know that it's ok. The feelings are valid, whether I like it or not, whether others like it or not. You have to face and deal with your emotions, regardless.

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  20. Did you see BDD's post on race shirt etiquitte? Hysterical. Also covers that you can wear your Boston jacket to a wedding.

    I am one of those people who suffered a huge loss when I couldn't try to qualify for Boston at Detroit due to an injury. I did feel a bit mentally ill when I looked back and realized how upset I was, but I did have several other high stress situations going on at the same time, so I was a bit of a wreck anyway. I ended up giving myself TMJD b/c I couldn't run, which was how I coped with my other problems. My hubby took me on vacation that weekend, and I was still sad. I was super sad that I couldn't do Steelhead this year b/c we moved, and school had already started, even though I already did TWO HALF IRONMANs instead, once I saw the f/b posts of my friends there. Part of it was being homesick. Was I upset that I was sick at Detroit this year? A little bit, but I got over it, and I have a new race this weekend (which I happen to be sick now for, so I guess we will see if I can get better first).

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  21. I think if you train hard and have to pull out, you deserve at least a couple of days for whining and feeling sorry for yourself.

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  22. Shit, I proudly wear my Chicago Marathon t-shirt. I earned that f*cker. I trained (yes overtrained), put blood sweat and tears into that race, AND I paid for it. So I wear it and seriously don't care what anyone else thinks. Plus it's cute.

    Wait...did you just say that you talked to Apollo Ono????? I have forgotten all about t-shirts, races, and injuries. I love Apollo. sigh.

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  23. Mickiruns: My prayers are with you and your family. And congratulations on your pregnancy!

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  24. I really doubt the author of that article has ever trained for an endurance run. While not getting to run a race after months of training is nothing compared to many other losses in life, it still sucks. I think mickiruns & Lisa both highlighted exactly why this is true.

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  25. Apolo Anton Ono is my favorite! He just added more cool points by running a marathon!

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  26. I paid for, and was unable to run, 8 races with my foot (though I did get someone to buy my Chicago Marathon bib :)), and each one hurt, but I still gave to the American Cancer Society during that time.

    Maybe you can ask Apollo for a full-time job as his assistant!!

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  27. I didn't sign up, I didn't train, I'm not injured, nor was I even in the same country -- but when Marine Corps Marathon came and went this weekend, when I was for sure I'd be running it again after I ran it last year, I was a whiny little bitch. Sure, moving to Asia in April put a damper on my race plans and made me slack off on running completely, but I complained about it alright. I can't complain about what I want to, damn it! That doesn't mean I don't count my blessings, but it doesn't negate my right to be upset.

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  28. I *can* complain about what I want. (Ooops.)

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  29. I wonder if there are actual stats on how many people just "quit" for some gutless reason (too hard; not as fast as I want to be, etc.). I am not talking folks who get injured or have a life changing situation (pregnancy), but the people who just quit.

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  30. I think what the person who left that comment missed is that some of the time those people running and training for marathons could very likely being doing it to escape those losses he/she mentioned. It's a form of stress release and escape. This isn't always the case, but I know that running helps to keep me sane from the stress/loss in my life. And if that is taken from you as well it's hard to put things in perspective then. Now this isn't always the case clearly, but it's another thought that was missed as to why someone may be "down in the dumps" over not being able to run a race.

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  31. I got injured a few weeks before my first half in mid-October, ran it anyway, and am now more injured because of it. While the rehabbing sucks, there was no way I was missing that race. I started running for fitness a year and a half ago. I hated it and I sucked at it, but I kept at it. I remember the day I finally ran 3 miles without stopping. Never imagined I could run 6 - 8 - 10 - 13.1?? impossible. This year I decided to make the half my goal. I had literally been working towards this for 9 months - longer than I cooked my babies, both kids being preemies. As a working mom, having a goal that revolved around me and only me was amazing. And every longer run, every faster run, I was accomplishing something I hadn't before.

    I was really happy to run, but unhappy that I had to run/walk the last 8 miles. Have I been a little whiny about my performance? Certainly. But it represents so much more than "just a race" or "just a weekend away". It represents a very personal goal and achievement and many months of hard work. I GUARANTEE the people making those comments whine about much less, on a daily basis. Case in point: whining about other people in an article!

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  32. I have respect for the "harder" things in life...but without running, I'd never make it through them.

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  33. I follow Apolo on Twitter, and it has been really fun to see how his marathon training has progressed. Here is someone who is such an amazing athlete, and yet there he was struggling with the miles and celebrating the "I've never run this far before" long runs just like the rest of us. Can't wait to hear what he has to say.

    I think everything that happened to me recently has helped me to put my running into perspective. Sometimes we need a good kick in the butt to help us realize how lucky we are to be out there running at all and just enjoy each one of those moments.

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  34. Interesting article, interesting comments, I think many of us,including myself, use these types of races and the training invloved for cheap therapy and to keep us "sane", just my opinion

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  35. I think my super secret spy husband would agree with the commenter. When my 50k was postponed last weekend I wanted someone...anyone to empathize with me. No Luck. of course the race was only postponed a week, but still.
    Some times I do need to be reminded that it is not life or death. It's my fun.

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  36. Wow, what a rough comment. I mean, sure, we all know that there are worse things in the world than being unable to run a race, but that doesn't mean our grief/anger/etc isn't valid.

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  37. I have so many angry opinions bursting out of me but to be honest responding to the people you speak of brings out a side of me I don't like. Grrrr

    Mickiruns sorry you were not able to run MCM. I am sure that had to be a difficult decision.

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  38. Well it is unanimous from the SUAR team that the WSJ author just doesn't get it. We have probably devoted more time discussing his article that it deserves.

    During the last 17 days running has kept me sane. I seem more focused and don't cry when I run (as much). My husband knew how much running meant to me and would never dream of asking me not to run.

    I got a PR at Jazz in New Orleans on Saturday and am heading to San Antonio on the 13th, then running with some first timers in a local half marathon on the 19th.

    I have only worn 1 shirt for an event I did not compete in. Like said earlier - it was a $65 shirt, I paid for it and I did do the same event the previous year.

    Thanks for keeping me entertained every day.

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  39. I my goodness what a sour puss who posted that original comment. I am sure that most (if not all) runners are perfectly aware and centered enough to realize that not completing a race due to injury is different situation than losing a loved one or the ability to walk. Come on now.. I'm also sure that the person who posted this has also divulged in self-pity tactics for some reason or another. Who are we to be allmighty and pass judgement on someone who has worked and trained months (maybe even a whole year or more) to complete something that most people can't fathom doing. I'm training for my first half right now. It is hard. It is a time commitment. If I weren't able to complete it due to injury I would be devastated but realistic in my thoughts.

    And as for running 26.2 miles- I don't think that anyone would look at this feat as an excuse to "take off for a weekend trip" or as a breeze. I wonder if the person who wrote the comment has even attempted something as strenuous as training for a marathon...

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  40. Beth, you’re like a best friend that can read my mind. Your blog today couldn’t have come at a better time. As an anniversary gift my hubby and I registered for our 1st RnR event which will be coming up this weekend. Sadly, my nerves are getting the best of me and this date with my hubby should come with excitement. (this will be our 2nd time away from the kiddos ever) After our Labor Day Run I got PF so for 2 months I’ve had little cardio conditioning. These months have tested me in every aspect……there are days that I’ve cried, days that I’ve had a sense of jealousy when my hubby goes out for a run, and at times I’ve felt near depression. My chiropractor gave me the o.k. to run this weekend as my PF is mild. I chose to listen to my body so I could at least participate in our 1st RnR event but I’m not prepared to run it the way I would like. I won’t have a PR run but I’m trying to have the Nike’s motto state of mind “Just Do It” and the Brooks motto “Run Happy!” I want to enjoy the experience of a band at every mile and to be surrounded by fabulous runners. ( I pray adrenalin will carry me through) Believe me I’ve put things in perspective and I know things could be much worse. I feel very blessed for so may reasons. As much as I hate it when I’m in a sad state of mind I will “feel” these emotions…I am not a robot. I am human. :)

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  41. Emotions are relative. Yes there are bigger things to be upset about than whether or not one can run a race, but no one can judge another individual's emotions or intention.

    The WSJ also put out that controversial article just over a year ago about how runners have gotten slower. In the last few years, WSJ has written similar articles around the time of the NYM and likes to "stir the pot."

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  42. Of course it's not the END of the WORLD but it is legitimate to mourn anything that had importance for you.
    If we put a lot of effort/heart into anything, and it fails, and we don't mourn it, why would we ever go out on a limb again?

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  43. I respect that other people are going throufh much more than a loss of a race but when I have trained for many months to run my first half and end up in a boot for a stress fracture I'm going to be disappointed. I'll put on my big girl panties and deal with it but now im stressed and don't have my normal outlet of running. Should my friend who just had a double masectomy at age 33 because of breast cancer not be disappointed because other people are going through worse? That's a ridiculous attitude to have. Must not be a runner or have anything they really enjoy!

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  44. Damn right we have the right to whine! Races are often a big part of what we train for, part of what defines us. When something you've been working for and dreaming about for weeks, months, or longer gets yanked away, it's going to hurt, and that's okay. It doesn't make a person ungrateful or insensitive by any means.

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  45. Lots of fab comments from your readers. If something is important to you, isn't okay to mourn when it is taken away? Certainly, there is perspective and it's all relative, but who am I to judge.

    The title of the article throws me--being injured isn't choosing to quit is it?

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  46. To the author of that comment I would ask:
    What are you passionate about?

    Let's say its checkers. And let's say that there is one checker missing from the board on the day of the biggest checkers match in all the world.'

    Would that person not be befuddled and upset at what just took place? Or would that person say....screw it I played 150,000,000 checkers matchs training for this day and because one isn't here is not a big deal because there are troops in Iraq?

    I mean we all know it is not life and death but when you pour your heart and soul into something you want to reap the rewards for it. You braved the winter months and stuck to the plan in the hottest of hot days and when the opportunity came to run you couldn't. Yes, I would be pissed off and yes I would be pissed off for days but I would still remember that there are recessions and wards going on....then I would turn on TBS and watch AFHV.

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  47. I wonder if the author of the article is a runner, certainly doesn't talk like one.

    There is way more to it than just running around - for me personally.
    I reckon the same applies to many others here - how many of us if asked why we run have trouble knowing where to start, yet could go on and on?

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