Chad Stafko’s op-ed piece in today’s (11/13/13) Wall Street Journal accuses runners of pursing their activity for the attention. “There is no more visible form of strenuous activity than running,” Chad wrote. “These days, people want more than ever to be seen . . . (i)f you’re actually doing something like running . . . what better way to fulfill the look-at-me desire? The lone runner is a one-person parade. Yay.” [See the entire article at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304448204579186401818882202].
Chad is obviously a brave man – or a glutton for criticism – because it doesn’t take a seer to predict the reaction to his article. The running community has already roused itself against him with a torrent of responses; when I checked the website early this morning there were already over 300 responses – all of the ones I looked at were negative.
Chad is also deeply mistaken. As a [attention-getting self-promotion alert, Chad!] longtime runner and marathoner, I can tell him that as with any human activity – including editorializing – there are no more braggerts and show-offs among runners than in the general population, but also that the vast majority do not run for the attention. There are many reasons for this:
First, most people don’t really care what we do. They’re busy with their own lives. A passing motorist is more likely to hit a runner than flash a thumb’s up.
Second, any positive attention pales in comparison with the effort it takes to run regularly, let alone prepare for a marathon. If attention is all we want, there are much easier ways to get it. Like writing intentionally controversial op-eds.
Third, most runners – myself included – run because doing so is the easiest, cheapest, most natural, and most democratic way to enrich the body and soul. Runners don’t need to belong to an expensive gym; we don’t need to buy expensive equipment; we don’t need to reserve court time or buy lift tickets. Anyone can get outside wherever they are, at any time, and run.
Actually, as a runner, I prefer not being seen. I especially like running very early in the morning, before dawn, when my city is asleep. The roads are mine, and I can relax and enjoy the moment. I come home refreshed and ready to face the day – and I feel no more need to talk about it than I would talking about brushing my teeth.
I’m guessing that Chad is not a runner. If he were, he would know this.