ASK THE GOAT: Shunning those running
Goat: “I don’t do races very often, but when I do, I often feel shunned from the other runners. Have you come across this feeling? I don’t think it’s just me. I really feel like they are looking down at me.” Signed “Way in the Back”
Dear WITB: As we've learned from past letters and columns, it takes all kinds to make the world go round. Unfortunately though, it only takes one bull-headed jerk to turn a runner against racing. There are going to be “those people” registered for races. You can’t change it, but you can approach the problem in several ways.
Here are some tactics to get through the “tough times” when surrounded by what seems like hordes of race jerks.
First: Ignore, ignore, ignore. The first way to ward off someone who feels it necessary to criticize, demean or insult a fellow athlete is to let it slide off you. Rarely do even the most persistent of people continue ragging on someone who it does not seem to faze. Remember that as to “rude eye contact or looks,” some people get very focused or nervous during the pre-race minutes, and may not be staring you down at all. They may not even know you are in their field of vision.
Second: If verbally accosted, begin laughing hysterically at what they are saying about you. And join them. When someone criticizes your speed or shoe type, treat it as if it is the funniest joke you’ve ever heard. Add in a few, “I know, right?” and you’ll be set. The aggressor will either find you crazy and will abandon the taunting, or will appreciate your confidence in whatever he/she sought to attack, and will stop.
Third: Sweep the Leg. Just kidding. Never physically act out of anger. You can ignore, join in, taunt back, or even outrun them, but never cause bodily harm. Race directors are very serious about this rule. You can be banned for life from events merely for acting unsportsmanlike. Add in assault and you can pretty much expect never to run an organized event again. Races bring in every type of personality, from the unsure novice to the pompous Age Grouper. You’ll have Boston winners starting alongside of Galloway walk-runners. And just like a high school classroom, not all personalities mesh well with others.
So, WITB, my advice to you is to enjoy the race regardless of your surroundings. Pity those athletes who find it important to demean others. If really upset or if ever you feel threatened, report the race bib number to the race director.
Most of all, run for the love of running. Run at your desired pace and go home knowing you did what you set out to do. Hopefully there will be a medal to physically represent your accomplishment, not a bruise from that cheap shot you took at the resident Race Jerk. Remember, bruises heal but felony records do not.