I’m sure, if you’re reading this, you are a pretty dedicated runner and have had your fair share of unsolicited advice from non-runners, occasional runners, or ex-runners. Don’t get me wrong, advice on running is something I always listen to. I will always listen, I just may disregard the advice and move on with my life, but I will certainly listen and carefully consider running advice. I’m still figuring this whole running thing out and I’m always looking for ways to improve my running. If a knowledgeable person can give me some advice that will help me to improve, I am all ears. It’s the negative comments about my running and words of discouragement I get from non-runners and bitter ex-runners that really gets my goat. Why must you, person who knows nothing about running, tell me that I am running too much? Why must you, person who, for whatever reason, got burnt out on running, tell me that eventually I will be just like they are? Why discourage me? Why offer negative advice? Why make me question what I’m doing? Why? What is the purpose?
Maybe it just boils down to the fact that people enjoy putting their two cents in on topics, whether they have any business doing so or not. People like to feel like experts on a topic … they’ve been there, but this is our first rodeo, that type of thing.
Would you ever tell a woman who is celebrating her first wedding anniversary, “Oh, honey. You may be happy now, but check back in with me ten years from now. It won’t be all rainbows and unicorns then, let me tell ya!” I’m guessing that most people would never dream of saying such a horrible thing to a newlywed, but whenever we squash other people’s dreams, burst their bubbles, tell them it will all go down in flames, it is rather like telling a newlywed they are destined for unhappiness. When you think of it that way it’s a really horrible thing to tell a runner that she can’t possibly sustain her running, isn’t it? It’s kind of like saying to her, “well, you might feel really strong and accomplished right now, but you just wait … you’ll be miserable soon enough.”
Now, not all advice is negative advice. There are many wonderful people out there, with various backgrounds in regards to running, that are spirited cheerleaders for us runners. These people build us up, cheer us on, and celebrate with us. These people might warn us to “listen to our bodies. Don’t overdo it. Make sure you take care of yourself so that you can continue to do what you are passionate about for as long as is humanly possible.” When these people offer us this advice, it is coming from a place of love and sincerity. These people get it. These people know that whatever their story has been, the person standing in front of them has her own story, and they don’t want to dampen that story.
I have a beautiful story about a woman who cheered for me when I needed it the most. It was at mile 24 of the Chevron Houston Marathon and my body felt like it was about to give out. I was so tired and I was feeling incredibly emotional. This woman, appearing like an angel, held a sign that read, “FREE HUGS.” I stopped, went towards her, and as she took one look at my pitiful face, she opened her arms to me and gave me an awesome bear hug. I cried a bit on her shoulder and she squeezed me harder. She told me to “keep going. Don’t stop.” I am tearing up as I type this. This woman, who owed me nothing, supported me when I needed it the most. This is the type of runner I want to be. That woman gets it. When I ran off I heard her cheers loud as could be and I knew she was rooting for me. I vow to stand with such a sign at mile 24 of a marathon at some point. I want to offer the kind of advice and support that that angel did for me.
So, I plan to run for as long as my body will let me, but more than that, I vow to be an inspiring, motivational advice giver. I vow to build others up rather than tear them down. I will not be a bubble burster. I will not wish future ill on another.