I was reading runners comments on a Facebook running group pages on a free afternoon and started to remember how running was before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like. Before our watches shared our daily experiences on social media. And I couldn’t help feel nostalgic about that now gone time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media but it’s hard to ignore how marketing has changed what it used to be a very simple sport.
- Around 15 years ago, we were only a few and everyone knew everybody else on the running trails or track.
- There were no more than 10 races during the year in Mexico’s main cities. Also in the USA the number of races were significantly less.
- it took one month, maybe more to fill up runners registration quotas in top marathons like Chicago, New York, Berlin. Disney marathons took a couple of months if not more and not a couple of hours like today, registration lotteries were nonexistent.
- You knew you had qualified for Boston by just crossing the finish line of your selected marathon and checking the official time clock. You didn’t have to be the fastest in your age group like today and run at least 5 minutes under the qualifying time to have a chance.
- Every time you came across another runner you said Hi!
- You kept your training log in a notebook or a Runners World training log where you wrote your times, shoe miles, etc. by hand
- You didn’t share times or selfies. You shared reading the material, magazine pieces, training methods and it was about science, statistics, and numbers not about soul and mysticism.
- Running a marathon was reserved for experts and you had to wait at least 2/3 years to dare racing one, due to the fear and respect a marathon inspired. Today, the average finishing time has increased by one hour. For men from 4 to 5 hours and for women from 4:30 to 5:30 hours.
- A runner will never use Adidas shoes because it was a brand with almost no market share within the sport, neither was considered a tech brand. Today, they sponsor the world’s most important marathon, Boston.
- At races there weren’t any water stations every few miles, neither energy gels nor the runners’ package was expected to have a food supply. Gatorade and Kellogg’s changed that while also helping make novice runners overweight.
- When group training you trained beside the group’s most experienced runner, who most likely had 10 /15 years running and was also an experienced marathon runner with near pro level personal bests and he/she could easily explain you the latest training methods that were trendy in the US, never with a young trainer that took only an online course and was hired by a trendy sports brand.
But what surprises me the most is those mottos stating “we are better” “we are unique” “those crazy misfits” that come up again and again in social media.
We all started more or less the same, when you ask a runner from anywhere in the world about how he/she started they will all tell you something like this… “I couldn’t run 100 yards without getting tired…”, “it changed my life…” are we really so different? Every sports gap has a learning curve. If you ask a triathlete, cyclist, football player, surfer, tennis player, karate black belt or yogi, every one of them will tell you that theirs is a wonderful sport. In my opinion, what changes your life is not running, but to start exercising, being a potato couch no more!
Today most of what I read in social media is about grounding one’s identity in “I’m a runner”, “I’m different”, and damn those who for whatever reason no longer can run, their self-esteem is no more.
It is more important to share than to run, to understand why and how you should run. It is a sport, not a religion, at least it’s how I see it. A sad byproduct is what happened in Mexico’s city Marathon in 2014, 2015, 2016 where at least 30% of a total number of finishers DIDN’T run the complete route.
Everyone wanted that medal without really knowing what is all about. If you doubt my words, randomly check any category results and note how many runners in that age group didn’t step on all timing mats. Also, check the average pace times and you’ll find they are unreal, seems like there were lots of “talented” racers among the crowd.
“Love to run” is not the same as “know how to run”.
Today’s websites supposedly specialized in running hire “copycats” and “content administrators” to post advice, suggestions, training plans, nutrition plans and motivational pics along the “we are different” and “that crazy person who runs” and all that those persons do is copy-paste whatever they find on the web, without having any clue on why they are posting those suggestions or what evidence supports them.
Most advice is old or just a copy paste of what was published in Runners World. This results in all of us being “experts”, “unique” and “we run from the heart”.
After so many years, running is part of my life, I studied the subject, got certified, try to learn a little bit more every day and still feel the same passion I felt as a beginner, but I don’t think I’m better than others, nor different, nor a misfit, nor am expert, I don’t run from the heart, or get mad because I missed registration to a race, I don’t use running as a socializing tool or to flirt with men and neither I want to spread the word to everybody.
I believe that’s what being mature is all about
There’s a huge difference between US and Mexican or Latin American runners attitudes. They appear to be savvier and experienced in the US and friend and family oriented in Latin America. Even beginners seem to know more than their Latin American counterparts.
It is interesting to see where marketing and new trends will take the sport. I have seen its popularity rise during the last 17 years and for sure I want to see how the sport evolves during the next 17.
To me, running with your soul is unimportant, my competitive and analytical side makes me run with my brains, that’s how it has been and will continue to be in the future, regardless what new marketing trends will try to sell us in the future.
My heart and soul belongs to my family and god. That’s what I think.
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