Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dangers of running in bad weather go beyond the actual conditions

If throwing up wasn't going to stop me from running and keeping my holiday streak alive, then the blizzard conditions that hit Des Moines on Dec. 19-20 weren't going to, either.

My backup plan, if I couldn't manage to run a mile around the apartment complex parking lot, was to run up and down the building's halls, just like the kids upstairs do on occasion. (Though thankfully not when I'm trying to sleep. No judgment here.)

Those two laps around the lot were neither fast nor pretty, but they did happen, and as I drove to work that afternoon I observed that I wasn't the only runner braving the conditions. To counter any middle fingers or angry honks these folks probably received, I waved vigorously at them and gave a thumbs-up — even though I'm sure they couldn't see.

That hunch became less of a suspicion and more of a conviction when I went on Facebook that night. One acquaintance had posted: "I appreciate a good workout/run as much as the next person, but to the 3 people I saw out for a run this morning — relax and take a day off!"; one of his friends had chimed in: "Seriously, if you really want to get an outdoor workout in today, make yourself useful and shovel someone out!"

And I began thinking again of the people I'd passed during my two parking lot laps: scraping off cars, blowing off sidewalks ... glaring at me? I hadn't sensed malevolence, but I sure hadn't wanted to call attention to myself, either.

It reminded me, on a much smaller scale, of Mark Remy's piece in Runner's World's post-NYC Marathon cancellation analysis. I haven't found it online, but the headline sums it up: "Are We Running in a Bubble?" 

The point is that while generally people don't sit around and fume over marathoners' perceived smugness as a group, the resentment is there, simmering — then exploding in such a situation as allowing a race to go through a community demolished by a freak storm — while marathoners themselves receive constant affirmation in their "closed system."

Don't believe it? "Recipe for Resentment: Claims of Running Prowess," posted on The New York Times' Well blog, addresses that same disdain in regards to the (disputed) recent study that running too fast and too long is actually bad for your health.

I wasn't inspired to write this post in order to defend us poor, despised runners. Like Remy, like the other authors of the NYC Marathon piece, like the marathoners who'd registered for the race long before Superstorm Sandy was on the radar, I was just surprised — and yet unsurprised, as a former nonrunner — at the sneers.

Surprised, because I didn't blather on to anyone, in person or online, about how I needed to go running and how this blizzard was really cramping my style. Surprised, because plenty of other people surely did weather-inappropriate "frivolous" things (while not shoveling anyone else out). Surprised, because I waved at cars — and snowblower operators — to indicate that I was moving off to the side to accommodate them, rather than demand all the space for myself.

And a week later, as fresh snow fell lightly, surprised at the disdain because of the smiling, encouraging folks who were doing outdoor chores as I ran past, who waved and apologized for being in the sidewalk. After online hate, it was nice to see real-life nice.

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