As a runner and coach I get asked a lot questions about running. Most are asked by new runners, or those thinking about starting a running program. I’ve written a couple posts with the answers to the most common questions. Check here and here. And one of my favorites, the Top 5 Embarrassing Running Questions.
Some people, though, just don’t get running. “Why would I want to run 26 miles when I can drive it?” they think. They don’t understand that getting up early, in all kinds of weather, to pound the pavement for an hour or more brings a special kind of joy, not to mention sense of accomplishment, to those of us who call ourselves runners.
So in the spirit of helpfulness and good fun, I am giving to those non-runners two things: 1. A list of questions to never ask a runner (and why), and 2. The answer to those questions (because I know you really do want to know).
1. Did you win?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Because, with a very few exceptions it points out to us that, in spite of all the heart and soul and hard work we put into our training, we’re not ever going to win the race. But, you know what? It really isn’t about winning. It’s about heart and soul and hard work and improving at something we love doing.
2. How long is that marathon?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Because it indicates that you probably haven’t been listening or paying attention to all our running chatter over the years. Yes, I know it probably bores you, but you might take a look at our bumper sticker now and then. Or our tattoo. Oh, and all marathons are 26.2 miles.
3. Are you fast?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Because, like “did you win?” it points out a weird contradiction that most runners share, but don’t really acknowledge. Our speed is relative. To our age, gender, natural ability. So we’ll say it doesn’t matter. Yet, most of us spend a lot of time trying to get faster because yes, we do want to be fast. So the answer is, “well, I’m faster than you.”
4. Isn’t all that running going to hurt your knees?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Because we’re not sure either. We’re bound and determined to defend our love of running to the death, but there is that glimmer of doubt, aroused when an older former runner states something like, “well, I used to run but it killed my knees!” We don’t want it to be true. Research is mixed, and certainly some people have more problems than others. Of course, they’d probably have knee problems if they didn’t run too. Right?
5. Are you still running?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Well, there are actually two reasons. If we are still running, we feel indignant that you could question our dedication to our sport. And if we’re not, then we’re embarrassed because we weren’t dedicated enough (or we hurt our knees).
6. Do you really need more shoes?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Shhh! Keep your voice down! Our spouse might hear and realize that we just purchased another pair of $150 running shoes. The answer? Yes, we do. Duh.
7. Did you enjoy your jog?
The reason that runners don’t like it: Maybe to you running and jogging mean the same thing, but do a dedicated athlete who pushes themselves to run faster and longer, the difference is night and day. Running means move like the wind, fly over the ground barely touching the earth. Jogging means, well, jogging. Bumpy and slow. Maybe that’s how I look, but please don’t remind me.
8. It’s raining. Will they cancel the race?
Unlike auto racing, where it can be dangerous, runners thrive in the rain. A light rain is refreshing and can keep you cool and fast. Heavy rain is another story of course, but that won’t stop tough runners. Runners probably won’t mind if you ask, unless they are, like I was once, the volunteer coordinators of a race, getting a phone call that half their volunteers didn’t show up because, “it’s raining, won’t they cancel the race?”
9. Aren’t you too old to run?
Sometimes phrased “you’re still running? Wow!” The reason that runners don’t like it: Would you like it if I asked if you were too old to breathe? That’s almost the same thing for dedicated runners who hope to run their whole lives. We’ll keep running as long as our bodies and our minds say we can. In that way, we’re never old.
10. Isn’t it too hot (cold, windy, foggy) to run?
Actually runners will love it when you ask this question because it will give them the opportunity to answer you: No, it is not. I am dedicated to my running, and while the heat can be challenging, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I overcome minor obstacles like the weather.
As for questions you can ask a runner, I’d suggest asking about their favorite running route, running shoes, or ask them to recap their last race. They will love it, and, well, you might begin to understand their obsession with running.
If you’re a runner, what question do you hate the most? Love the most?