One of the things I love most about running is its inclusive nature. Running truly is one of the very few sports that accepts all ability levels, all ages, male and female. I realized this back in 1984 while attending my very first 10K. Actually it was my very first race period. I was a freshman in college. I had been doing a little running and saw an ad for the Great Raleigh Road Race. I was a student at NC State at the time and thought, hmmm, I'll give this a try.
Not knowing what to expect at all, I showed up. I think I ran that 10K in 1:06:00. I really didn't know if that was good or bad. I really didn't care. I ran hard and had a great time. I remember sitting there in the downtown square afterward watching the age group awards being given out. I looked at all the runners in the square and I realized, these people are just like me. I must be a runner. It was the first time I really realized that I run, therefore, I am a runner. It opened an entirely new world up to me.
Never having been a team sports kind of kid, I never was very athletic growing up. I played a year or two of little league baseball and football, but it just wasn't for me. That day in 1984, I discovered running was for me. Been at it ever since....over 30 years.
As a running coach, one of the things I love the most is helping new runners. Whether its brand new runners, just leaning the basics or a new race trainer. I love the excitement they bring. They are usually hesitant and a bit fearful of failing or not being as good as the other runners or even worse not being accepted by the other runners. This usually comes with lack of confidence in their abilities. But soon they realize that running isn't about keeping up with others, it's about challenging yourself.
Occasionally, when away at a race or some other running event and I'll hear an "experienced" runner talk about newer, slower, or less experienced runners in a negative manner. I really don't understand these runners. I reason it as possibly a lack of confidence in their own running, so they bash the slower runner. Truly sad, but like I said it's a rare occasion. I guess in every bushel you'll have a bad apple.
I asked my running friend, Bart Yasso of Runner's World his take on the inclusiveness of running and he told me,
"Thad, as runners, we each have a duty to accept the role as mentor to a new runner or someone who doesn't think he or she can walk around the block, let alone finish a 5K. We are runners! So let's spread the message. The acceptance of all abilities is what differentiates running from every other sport."
I totally agree, Bart! I've seen so many lives enriched even turned completely around for the better by simply taking that leap of faith into running. When I hear someone talk about a slower or less experienced runner in a negative light, I usually reply back with, "You're talking to the wrong person. I ran my first mile (40lbs overweight) in 18 minutes wearing long plaid pants and a pair of wallabees." 😊 (True story.)
We all start somewhere. Whether we want to be really fast or just enjoy the journey is entirely up to the runner, but in either case we're still all runners.