Living about 40 miles south of San Francisco, the weather is nice pretty much all year round. Sure, we have a few cold days each year when it gets down into the high 40’s between 10 and 20 hot days where the mercury pushes over the 100 degree mark but basically, it’s a pretty nice climate. So I’m always amazed when, while driving around, I see very few runners. Sure, there are plenty of cyclists and power walkers making their rounds, and I use the word “power” loosely, but not a lot of runners. I think then of all of the cycling stores in the area, some fairly large, and then sadly, of the only two or three running specific stores that cater to the million plus people here in the Valley — how they’re not really all that big and how I’ve never seen them crowded. Hmmm, maybe it’s just the area in which I live, surely there are other places where running is more the craze. So, I head out to cyberspace to poke around. Nope, still not a lot compared to other sports. Why is this? We’re either the most reclusive bunch out there or there simply aren’t that many of us.
Assuming that there’s no way for me to figure out for sure which one of the above is correct in the next 15 minutes or so, the fact that the magazine “Runner’s World” is still nice and thick, with plenty of articles and advertisers leads me to believe that we’re out there, but we’re just not very vocal.
I guess it’s understandable that we aren’t more vocal as running is, for whatever reason, largely an activity that we do on our own. Every now and then I’ll see two people running together but, aside from the afternoon school cross country teams and/or running clubs, we pretty much do it solo.
And, as shallow as this sounds, I also think that the lack of cool gear is a contributing factor. Next time you see a group of cyclists, check out the variety of bikes, colors, shoes, water bottle cages, etc… There are endless ways that you can trick out your duds and ride, and I think that talking about the latest and greatest gear builds community — it allows people to be knowledgeable and creates sort of an “us vs. them” mentality between cyclists. What do we have, shoes? Aside from the few guys wearing Vibrams, when was the last time you heard anyone say “Aw man, did you see the newest Asics? Dude, those are sick! I’m so gonna hook up with a pair of those bad boys!” I haven’t heard that either.
I think that possibly the largest factor is that there isn’t a poster boy or girl for the sport — a Lance, Tiger or Andre (Agassi for the young’uns) for the media to grab onto and who inspires people to dream. I remember when I was younger, Agassi was on all the magazine covers; I couldn’t wait to hit the courts with my gray acid washed tennis shorts, complete with Spandex (pink, but I’ll never admit to that) underneath and matching neon top. Or when Lance was at his peak, how I’d get up early to watch the Tour de France and then spend a few hours outside spinning later on that day. Remember when Tiger hit the scene? Golf all of a sudden became cool again. Golf? Seriously? Now, I have a torn rotator cuff from serving tennis balls, my bike is in desperate need of a new chain and tires as it hangs on the wall collecting dust, and my Big Berthas haven’t seen a course in about a year.
So I think that, until an ambassador for the sport shows up, we’re likely doomed to remain out there on our own, garnering little respect from passersby and misunderstood by most who see us. And cool? Forget about that. I guess we could hope that a Ryan Hall grabs national headlines but, if Dean Karnazes hasn’t yet been able to do it? The thing is though, that we don’t need anyone else’s approval, if we wanted to be cool, we’d be brushing up on our MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) skills and doing Parkour at every opportunity. Instead, we remain dedicated and faithful to the sport, putting in the miles because it’s what we love to do and not the latest fad. By the way, not sure if I mentioned this, but I just bought a new pair of Asics 2150’s — they’re so totally sick!
Run far, run often, run smart.