In the “Harry Potter” series, muggles, or non-wizards, were often astounded by magic even of the simplest form. (As a side note, I actually wondered for a moment why muggles was underlined as a spelling error- isn’t that a real word already?). But I’ve found a seemingly parallel scenario in the running world: the way non-runners treat runners.
Take a look at this typical conversation between a runner and non-runner and see if it looks familiar:
“Yeah, I just got back from an 8 mile jog, I actually crashed pretty hard.”
“Whoa, did you say 8 MILES? Damn, I can’t run 5 minutes without collapsing.”
“Okay, so anyway, I was really hitting the wall because of the disgusting humidity, when–”
“–So how often do you run? What’s the furthest you’ve run at one time? Have you done a marathon yet??”
Sometimes, it does get annoying. But at the base of it all, there’s admiration fueling the curiosity of non-runners, and that makes me feel pretty good. Even if you don’t stack up well against other runners, it’s nice once in a while to have someone be impressed with you just for going the distance.
Sometimes, non-runners hide their admiration in insult by mocking our ridiculous running obsessions. At least, I like to believe it’s really admiration when people call me out of my mind, because I’ve been told that a fair bit. I tell myself they’re just jealous that they all can’t run ten miles in 90 degrees of humidity.
Other times, there’s no question that it’s admiration. I was at my local track a few nights ago, and when I finished my speed-work, a teenager stopped smoking his weed for a minute to ask me how many laps I just ran. I smiled and said I lost count (I was too busy concentrating on the state of my barefoot feet to think about a real answer- see my post My Latest Not-Too-Bright Running Idea to read that story). As I limped (literally) away, I heard him say to his friend, “Wow, that guy’s in good shape.”
That was nice to hear.
Running is no doubt a solo sport, and theoretically we should only be judging ourselves against ourselves. But in reality, most of us like to judge ourselves against others; that’s why we race. But sometimes it’s still nice to hear a few words of unadulterated praise from those who are just as impressed with a ten-minute miler as a six-minute miler. So here’s to you, non-runners, our best cheerleaders.