Over many years of many races and runs, elite, club, and casual, I can group runners into three categories. With apologies to John “The Penguin” Bingham, whose column arguably did the best job of categorizing runners and their goals at a race, my divisions are very internal, dealing with motivation.
Understand, it is my belief all distance runners SHOULD be people of peace and grace. But they hardly ever fit into that description, sadly. Look no further than White Rock Lake to see how local runners are viewed by the public. It seems we are one step away from terrorists, literally.
But what if it were true…? That we were filled with peace and grace, rather than selfishness and the egos of three year olds? I know this might sound a bit naïve and simplistic, but I really believe it’s not an impossible goal for all of us to have, and still maintain the goals of setting a world record. Or at least setting a PR at a Carrollton Road Runners monthly race.
First, The STRIVERS. They painfully squeeze out each workout with almost blind ambition and allegiance, and show up to trophy at races as if it were their birth right. Their bodies are very fit, almost gaunt due to their intense training and eating. They tend to be inflexible with their schedules (work, training, or, when they make time, social life). They are restrictive in their lifestyles. The Strivers can be obsessive in all things, but especially when it comes to “their” sport. They worry because they didn’t eat the same at lunch, aren’t wearing the right socks, or didn’t have the same preparation. Race Directors can always count on these people showing up at their events, despite the weather, the cause, or injury. They also tend to have a narrow focus. Their lives consist of their job, and running. Socializing comes in a distant third.
The next group are The NETWORKERS. This is synonymous with Cliques, Joiners, and Wanna-Bes. They are there for the party, basically. This group has no expectations of glory. It doesn’t even cross their mind. They are more interested in the social aspects of the event. They are happiest running with friends, not getting personal records. Networkers have a strong bond with a loose knit group, that very often extends like tentacles into the work place, and apartment complex (they would never live solo). They are fun people, to be sure, but not always focused. They couldn’t tell you how many miles they ran last week, but they can tell you about the person they met at the last run. To run next to them is to be entertained without you saying a word. Running and biking (they don’t swim because they can’t communicate) are an excuse, a vehicle, a conduit to more people and nothing more. But they are a necessary part of a healthy group to keep it from being controlled by The Strivers. Networkers are nice people, as long as you’re standing in front of them. If you’re not in their picture, you’re out of the picture.
The last group are the runners of PEACE. Whether it’s a workout or a race, whether it’s hot or cold, raining or snowing, they are just glad to be there, to be doing it. They are generally happy and grateful to be there. Each run, bike ride, or swim is a special opportunity to experience being alive, and a chance to feel. They are thankful for their talents and the day, doing the race or workout joyfully. It wouldn’t be unusual for them to be on a PR pace, then stop, and look around at the wonder and scenery of where they’re racing.
But during a race or hard work out, they have the uncanny ability to not really be caught up in the emotion of the race. The race is not the center of their universe or world. In fact, the race itself almost distracts from the activity. They never look like they are working, despite setting a personal best. They are not intimidated by the course, or the people. They readily shake hands without pretence nor appear star stuck, with the slowest runner or the pro expecting to win. They will also encourage both equally. The runners of peace are also the smallest group of the three; it has the fewest members.
Since I don’t want to single out anyone, I’ll use local races to illustrate. Races have personalities just like people. An example of The Strivers might The Dallas White Rock Marathon, a no nonsense race that takes commitment and focus. A Networkers race would be the St. Paddy’s Dash Down Greenville, a party race where the race is secondary. The last example of runners with peace would be the DRC or Thurston races, where people aren’t really concerned with the talent or awards. Instead, they are there for themselves and the opportunity to be alive, doing the event itself.
You will probably find most people overlap. That is, they don’t fit into just one category, that they might be a little of two, or even all three, depending upon events.
It is important to be balanced, always, in all things. While it’s necessary to be focused on the training for an upcoming race, say the DWR Marathon, one doesn’t want to be obsessed by it. Co-workers and family members will avoid you, and the topic , for fear of hearing more running drivel. Once the event has passed, get on with the rest of your life.