A few days ago I noticed a plug on Facebook for a new 20 mile running event to be held in Nidderdale this May. Run Nidderdale, organised by the Rotary Club of Harrogate, describes itself as being ‘for serious runners only’. I guess they mean they only want entries from sub-elite skinny minnies in running club vests who post super-fast times, but it got me to thinking about what constitutes a serious runner. Does it depend on your ability? Or can it just be about your attitude?
I have friends who are runners at all levels, from those just starting out with Couch to 5K to others who can run a marathon in less than three hours, and everything in between. They are almost all taking their training seriously: setting a goal, following a plan, trying to eat healthily and doing their best to improve, sometimes at the expense of other things like holidays or even a social life. But if someone happens to be older or slower than that person who can run a marathon in three hours, does that mean they aren’t taking running seriously? That their efforts count for nothing?
To look at things another way… when I’m out running I always say hello to other runners. I guess I feel an affinity with them, whoever they are. Some reciprocate, but others totally blank me. Am I not worthy of their acknowledgement if I’m clearly not clocking sub six minute miles? If I smile and say hi does it mean I’m not taking things seriously enough? Are they the serious runners, too po-faced to offer a friendly greeting? Being snooty/serious doesn’t necessarily make them any faster than friends of mine who are super speedy and dedicated, yet also some of the most cheerful people I know; people who’ve encouraged me throughout my running journey and don’t feel the need to be so up themselves.
So where does that leave me? Am I a serious runner? I’m never going to trouble the podium in any event, but I always want to do the best I can. Even though I’m no spring chicken I’m still trying to improve. I didn’t become a Good For Age marathoner by not taking my training seriously. I haven’t yet given up on trying to shave those last few seconds off that elusive sub 50 10K. But I feel the good Rotarians of Harrogate wouldn’t classify me as a serious runner because I’m never at the head of the field.
Interestingly, the aim of this new run is to give people (and I quote) ‘the opportunity to raise money for their favourite charity’. But is running 20 miles a challenge for a serious runner? It’s far more of a stretch for those of us lower down the food chain. You know, the ones who sometimes wear tights when it’s a bit chilly, have fun while we’re running and are probably more likely to run for charity anyway.
If the organisers of the Rotary run want only fast runners to enter, then that’s what they should say, not insult the rest of us by implying we don’t take our sport seriously. Personally I don’t ever want to be serious enough not to say hi to another runner. I prefer to be in the middle of the pack. Smiling.
What do you think makes a ‘serious’ runner? I’d love to know.